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Psychiatry Res. 2011 Aug 30;189(1):49-54. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.03.006. Epub 2011 Apr 2.

Self-defining memories related to illness and their integration into the self in patients with schizophrenia.

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Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, Clinique Psychiatrique, Hôpital Civil, 1 Place de l'Hôpital, 67091 Strasbourg Cedex, France.


Although schizophrenia alters the sense of personal identity, little is known about the impact of illness-related autobiographical events on patients' self-representation. We investigated self-defining memories (SDM) in 24 patients with schizophrenia and 24 controls to explore how illness-related SDM were integrated into the self at both the cognitive (how participants are able to give a meaning to past events: meaning making) and affective levels (how participants can re-experience past negative events as less negative: redemption and benefaction effects). We found that 26% of freely recalled SDM referred to their illness in patients. Further, while meaning making was impaired in patients for both illness-related and other SDM, illness-related SDM were characterized by a higher redemption and benefaction effects than other SDM. Our results highlight that despite a reduced ability to give a meaning to illness-related episodes, emotional processing seems to allow these events to become positively integrated into patients' life stories. This study provides new findings about the construction of the self in relation to psychotic episodes in patients with schizophrenia. We discuss clinical implications of our results that are helpful to guide cognitive interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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