Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 368–381 | Cite as

Actively Negotiating the Mind–Body Divide: How Clozapine-Treated Schizophrenia Patients Make Health for Themselves

Original Paper

Abstract

It is well recognised that antipsychotic treatments impact the whole body, not just the target area of the brain. For people with refractory schizophrenia on clozapine, the gold standard antipsychotic treatment in England and Australia, the separation of mental and physical regimes of health is particularly pronounced, resulting in multiple, compartmentalised treatment registers. Clinicians often focus on the mental health aspects of clozapine use, using physical indicators to determine whether treatment can continue. Our observations of 59 participants in England and Australia over 18 months revealed that patients did not observe this hierarchisation of mental treatments and physical outcomes. Patients often actively engaged in the management of their bodily symptoms, leading us to advance the figure of the active, rather than passive, patient. In our paper, we do not take the position that the facility for active management is a special one utilised only by these patients. We seek instead to draw attention to what is currently overlooked as an ordinary capacity to enact some sort of control over life, even under ostensibly confined and confining circumstances. We argue that clozapine-treated schizophrenia patients utilise the clinical dichotomy between mental and physical domains of health to rework what health means to them. This permits patients to actively manage their own phenomenological ‘life projects’ (Rapport, I am Dynamite: an Alternative Anthropology of Power, Routledge, London 2003), and forces us to reconsider the notion of clinical giveness of what health means. This making of one’s own meanings of health may be critical to the maintenance of a sense of self.

Keywords

The active patient’ Clozapine Health Schizophrenia Medical ethnography 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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