People with schizophrenia do not attempt to control their stronger emotions in the usual way, a study finds.
Most people try to regulate stronger emotions towards ones they prefer: such as reducing intense fear, anger and anxiety.
For example, when feeling very anxious, most people will try to calm down using relaxing thoughts, deep breathing or any other coping strategy they have found to work.
However, people with schizophrenia make little attempt to regulate their emotions.
The conclusions come from a study that compared the emotional experience of people with schizophrenia to a healthy control group.
The extent of people’s feelings were rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the strongest emotions.
Mr Ian Raugh, the study’s first author, explained how healthy people react to more negative emotions:
“…as negative emotion increases, they’re more likely to manage that.
At lower levels, say 1 or 2, you’re probably not going to do anything to change it.
But as the level of negative emotion goes up, a healthy person is much more likely to engage in efforts to change how they are feeling.”
However, people with schizophrenia do not or cannot regulate strong emotions, Mr Raugh said:
“That’s really the abnormality, that people with schizophrenia don’t seem to be trying to manage their emotions as much when their emotions are really high.”
People with schizophrenia are exhausted
The stronger the negative emotions become, the less people with schizophrenia attempt to change their emotional state.
One reason may be that people with schizophrenia do not think it will help to try.
Mr Raugh said:
“The terms we use in psychology are ‘learned helplessness’ or ‘defeatists beliefs,’ where people think ‘oh it’s not going to work even if I try so why bother,’ which is common in depression as well.
And so, there’s that aspect probably driving less attempts at higher levels.”
Another reason may be that people with schizophrenia feel exhausted.
The effort of constantly trying to change negative emotions at low levels makes the effort at higher levels almost impossible.
Mr Raugh said:
“A lot of that comes down to they’re not regulating as much when it would be most advantageous to do so.
Our future studies will try to understand more about why they would regulate less at higher levels.”
What is schizophrenia?
People with schizophrenia have symptoms such as:
- disorganised speech,
- disorganised behaviour and movement,
- not eating, bathing or functioning in daily life normally,
- appearing to lack emotions,
- social withdrawal,
- inability to experience pleasure,
- and suicidal thoughts.
Schizophrenia symptoms typically appear during the 20s, with the onset earlier in men than women.
Although it is not known what causes schizophrenia, it runs in families and certain factors, such as malnutrition and taking mind-altering drugs, can trigger it.
Treatment is often with a combination of antipsychotic medications and various types of psychotherapies.
During a crisis, a person with schizophrenia may require hospitalisation until the symptoms subside somewhat.