Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-8bljj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-20T17:06:11.105Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

16 - Personal Accounts of Living with Schizophrenia across a Lifetime: Coping Strategies and Subjective Perspectives

from Section 5 - Treatment and Services

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2019

Carl I. Cohen
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Paul D. Meesters
Friesland Mental Health Services
Get access


This chapter provides an in-depth perspective of the subjective experience of ageing individuals with schizophrenia. Phenomenological in-depth interviews were conducted with 18 patients and revealed the following themes: (1) Narrating schizophrenia: "Why did this happen to me?"; (2) Schizophrenia: Figure or background and coping with lifelong mental illness; (3) Between adversity and personal growth: Meaning-making and Aging with schizophrenia; (4) Ageing individuals with schizophrenia: Searching for a voice. Personal accounts of living with schizophrenia across a lifetime through biography, life changes, and subjectivity, including a sense of recovery and growth, as well as adversity shows a heterogenic picture that is depicted using a phenomenological approach.
Schizophrenia and Psychoses in Later Life
New Perspectives on Treatment, Research, and Policy
, pp. 200 - 211
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Baltes, P.B. and Baltes, M.M.. Psychological perspectives on successful aging: the model of selective optimization with compensation. In Successful Aging: Perspectives from the Behavioral Sciences, ed. Baltes, P.B. and Baltes, M.M., Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990: 134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jeste, D.V., Depp, C.A., and Vahia, I.V.. Successful cognitive and emotional aging. World Psychiatry 2010; 9(2): 7884.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cohen, C.I.. Outcome of schizophrenia into later life: an overview. Gerontologist 1990; 30: 790–7.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Karim, S., Overshott, R., and Burns, A.. Older people with chronic schizophrenia. Aging and Mental Health 2005; 9(4): 315–24.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McGlashan, T.H. and Johannessen, J.O.. Early detection and intervention with schizophrenia: rationale. Schizophrenia Bulletin 1996; 22(2): 201–22.Google ScholarPubMed
Bobes, J., Arango, C., Garcia-Garcia, M., et al. Prevalence of negative symptoms in outpatients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders treated with antipsychotics in routine clinical practice: findings from the CLAMORS study. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2010; 71(3): 280.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cohen, C.I., Meesters, P.D., and Zhao, J.. New perspectives on schizophrenia in later life: implications for treatment, policy, and research. Lancet Psychiatry 2015; 2(4): 340–50.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Flanagan, E.H., Davidson, L., and Strauss, J. S.. Issues for DSM-V: incorporating patients’ subjective experiences. American Journal of Psychiatry 2007; 164(3): 391–2.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Strauss, J.S.. Prognosis in schizophrenia and the role of subjectivity. Schizophrenia Bulletin 2008; 34(2): 201–3.Google ScholarPubMed
Walker, E., Kestler, L., Bollini, A., et al. Schizophrenia: etiology and course. Annual Review of Psychology 2003; 55: 401–30.Google Scholar
Williams, B. and Healy, D.. Perceptions of illness causation among new referrals to a community mental health team: “explanatory model” or “exploratory map”? Social Science and Medicine 2001; 53: 465–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baker, A.E.Z. and Procter, N.G.. A qualitative inquiry into consumer beliefs about the causes of mental illness. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 2013; 20(5): 442–7.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Araten-Bergman, T., Avieli, H., Mushkin, P., et al. How aging individuals with schizophrenia experience the self-etiology of their illness: a reflective lifeworld research approach. Aging and Mental Health 2016; 20(11): 1147–56.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Khalsa, S.R., McCarthy, K.S., Sharpless, B.A., et al. Beliefs about the causes of depression and treatment preferences. Journal of Clinical Psychology 2011; 67(6): 539–49.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sheikh, S. and Furnham, A.. A cross-cultural study of mental health beliefs and attitudes towards seeking professional help. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2000; 35(7): 326–34.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bhui, K. and Bhugra, D.. Explanatory models for mental distress: implications for clinical practice research. British Journal of Psychiatry 2002; 181: 67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stein, C.H. and Wemmerus, V.A.. Searching for a normal life: personal accounts of adults with schizophrenia, their parents and well‐siblings. American Journal of Community Psychology 2001; 29(5): 725–46.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Solano, N.H. and Whitbourne, S.K., Coping with schizophrenia: patterns in later adulthood. International Journal of Aging and Human Development 2001; 53(1): 110.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Barrowclough, C., Berry, K.K.L., Byrne, E.E.J., and Purandare, N.. Coping processes in older people with schizophrenia: an investigation of appraisals, coping and social support in patients and non-clinical controls. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2006; 41(4): 280–4.Google Scholar
Cohen, C.I., Hassamal, S.K., and Begum, N.. General coping strategies and their impact on quality of life in older adults with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research 2011; 127(1): 223–8.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ogden, L.P.. “My Life as it is has Value”: A Narrative Approach to Understanding Life Course Experiences of Older Adults with Schizophrenia. Doctoral thesis, Columbia University, 2012.Google Scholar
Shibusawa, T. and Padgett, D.. The experiences of “aging” among formerly homeless adults with chronic mental illness: a qualitative study. Journal of Aging Studies 2009; 23: 188–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bartels, S.J. and Pratt, S.. Psychosocial rehabilitation and quality of life for older adults with serious mental illness: recent findings and future research directions. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 2009; 22: 381–5.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Magliano, L., Fiorillo, A., Malangone, C., et al. Social network in long-term diseases: a comparative study in relatives of persons with schizophrenia and physical illnesses versus a sample from the general population. Social Science and Medicine 2006; 62(6): 1392–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Palmer, B.W., Martin, A.S., Depp, C.A., et al. Wellness within illness: happiness in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research 2014; 159(1): 151–6.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Avieli, H., Mushkin, P., Araten-Bergman, T., et al. Aging with schizophrenia: a lifelong experience of multidimensional losses and suffering. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing 2016; 30(2): 230–6.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Larsen, E.B. and Gerlach, J.. Subjective experience of treatment, side‐effects, mental state and quality of life in chronic schizophrenic out‐patients treated with depot neuroleptics. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 1996; 93(5): 381–8.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Higginbottom, G. and Liamputtong, P. (eds.) Participatory Qualitative Research Methodologies in Health. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pentland, W., Miscio, G., Eastabrook, S., et al. Aging women with schizophrenia. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 2003; 26: 290302.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Shepherd, S., Depp, C.A., Harris, G., et al. Perspectives on schizophrenia over the lifespan: a qualitative study. Schizophrenia Bulletin 2012; 38: 295303.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Martinsson, G., Fagerberg, I., Lindholm, C., et al. Struggling for existence: life situation experiences of older persons with mental disorders. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being 2012; 7(1): 18422.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Patton, M.Q.. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, 3rd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002.Google Scholar
Morse, J.M.. Determining sample size. Qualitative Health Research 2000; 10: 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kvale, S.. The 1,000-page question. Qualitative Inquiry 1996; 2(3): 275–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Padgett, D.K.. Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2016.Google Scholar
Mushkin, P., Band-Winterstein, T., and Avieli, H.. “Like every normal person”: like every normal person?! The paradoxical effect of aging with schizophrenia. Qualitative Health Research 2018; 28(6): 977–86.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heidegger, M.. What is metaphysics? Basic Writings, New York, NY: Routledge, 1993: 89110.Google Scholar
Jacob, K.S.. Insight in psychosis: an independent predictor of outcome or an explanatory model of illness? Asian Journal of Psychiatry 2014; 11: 6571.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Leamy, M., Bird, V., Le Boutillier, C., et al. Conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis. British Journal of Psychiatry 2011; 199(6): 445–52.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Andresen, R., Oades, L G., and Caputi, P.. Psychological Recovery: Beyond Mental Illness. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leventhal, H. and Nerenz, D.. The assessment of illness cognition. In Measurement Strategies in Health Psychology, ed. Karoly, P.. New York: John Wiley, 1985.Google Scholar
Karp, D.A.. Illness ambiguity and the search for meaning. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 1992; 21(2): 139–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lincoln, Y.S. and Guba, E.G.. Naturalistic Inquiry, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Correia, F. and Schnieder, B. (eds.) Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reker, G. T., Birren, J., and Svensson, C.. Restoring, maintaining, and enhancing personal meaning in life through autobiographical methods. In The Human Quest for Meaning: Theories, Research, and Applications. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013: 383408.Google Scholar
Beaver, M.. Life review/reminiscent therapy. In Serving the Elderly, ed P. Kim. New York, NY: Aldine DeGruyter, 1991: 6788.Google Scholar
Butler, R.N.. The life review: an interpretation of reminiscence in the aged. In New Thoughts on Old Age. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, 196: 265–80.Google Scholar
Birren, J.E. and Cochran, K.N.. Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups. Baltimore, MD: Taylor & Francis, 2001.Google Scholar
Oliver, M. and Barnes, C.. Disabled People and Social Policy: From Exclusion to Inclusion. London, UK: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats