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Chapter 1 Part 1

How can schizophrenia be identified through drawings of the self?

The symptoms of schizophrenia have been highlighted. The most common ones include, hallucinations, delusions, fear, confusion, paranoia, the belief that there is no boundary between self and others, and hearing voices. (Tsuang and Faraone, 1997). These symptoms can be identified through drawings of the self. One particular study that confirms this was carried out by Lev-Wiesel and Shvero (2003). Here the art therapist uses self-figure drawings as a technique to assess individuals with schizophrenia. It was carried out to discover if schizophrenic symptoms could be labelled through self-figure drawings.

The sample included 30 adults diagnosed with schizophrenia and 30 non-schizophrenic adults. The participants were asked by a psychiatric social worker to draw themselves, no other instructions were given. The drawings were assessed for the prominence of selected indicators that were based on the schizophrenic symptoms of anxiety, aggression, visual or auditory impairments expressed in hallucinations, disorganisation and reality distortion. The results identified that only 36% of the participants with schizophrenia could be predicted by all the indicators.

According to the American Psychiatric Associations, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, now in its fourth edition (DSM-IV, 1994) as cited in Lev-Wiesel and Shvero (2003) schizophrenia consists of five subtypes, each defined by a prominent symptom. This could be used to explain why only 36% of sufferers could be identified with schizophrenia. All the participants used for this study were from one particular subgroup, thus having the same predominant symptom. The range of symptoms used as indicators would not all be present. This could be because of the narrow range of symptoms that were used.

One clear indicator noted within the study was the symptom of hearing voices, identified by the ears in the drawings (Appendix 1), Lev-Wiesel and Shvero (2003, p16) write, ".., it is very common for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia to hear pejorative* or threatening voices. For these reasons in their self-drawings, the ears seem to represent both the symptom itself (hallucinations) and its content (perception of persecution)."
Emmons et al (1997) offers a collection of drawings by a schizophrenic sufferer, here the ears are shown as standing out through the artwork. (Appendix 2)

One particular narrative about a schizophrenic who draws offers a description about the individuals self-portraits.

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