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Double Bind Situation

  • Date Submitted: 08/30/2010 07:38 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 25.5 
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Among the experiences that psychotic people fail to integrate, those relating to their social environment seem to play a crucial role.   Recent major advances in the understanding of schizophrenia have been based on the recognition that the disorder cannot be understood by focusing on the individual patients, but has to be perceived in the context of their relations to other people.   Numerous studies of families of schizophrenics have shown that the person who is diagnosed as being psychotic is, almost without exception, part of a network of extremely disturbed patterns of communication within the family.   The illness manifested in the ‘identified patient’ is a really a disorder of the entire family system.

The central characteristic in the communication patterns of families of diagnosed schizophrenics was identified by Gregory Bateson as a ‘double bind’ situation.   Bateson found that the behaviour labeled schizophrenic represents a special strategy, which a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation.   Such a person finds himself facing a situation within his family that seems to put him into an untenable position, a situation in which he ‘can’t win,’ no matter what he does.   For example, the double bind may be set up for a child by contradictory verbal and nonverbal messages, either from one or from both parents, with both kinds of messages implying punishment or threats to the child’s emotional security.   When these situations occur repeatedly, the double-bind structure may become a habitual expectation in the child’s mental life, and this is likely to generate schizophrenic experiences and behaviour. This does not mean that everybody becomes schizophrenic in such a situation.   What exactly makes one person psychotic while another remains normal under the same external circumstances is a complex question, likely to involve biochemical and genetic factors that are not yet well understood.   In particular the effects of nutrition on mental health...

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