PhD Graduates – Semar

Donna C. Semar, PhD
May 2000

“Making my Own Acquaintance: A Phenomenological Study of Taking Antipsychotic Medication for Schizophrenia”

About the Thesis: Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic, disabling psychiatric illness that currently affects over two million Americans and 20 million people worldwide. Its specific etiology is unknown and presently there is no cure. Treatment is available, however, that mitigates the most savage effects of the disease. Antipsychotic medication is, to date, the most efficacious strategy for managing the symptoms of schizophrenia and preventing relapse, provided it is taken as prescribed. Adherence to medication regimens has always been problematic, however. The majority of the literature that addresses the issues of medication and adherence is quantitative in nature and evaluates either the efficacy of interventions designed to increase adherence or the amount of symptom reduction attributable to medications. There is little research regarding the impact of antipsychotic medications on quality of life issues and none from the perspective of the people with schizophrenia who actually take the medications. The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study is to illuminate the lived experience of taking medication from the chronic schizophrenic client’s perspective.

Introduction: The phenomenology of Alfred Schutz provided the conceptual framework for this study. Seven people with chronic schizophrenia and a history of taking antipsychotic medication were recruited and interviewed for this study, at which point data saturation was reached. Data was analyzed using Spiegelberg’s methodology.

Results: Three themes emerged from the study: 1) the tension of awareness; 2) the process of alliance; and 3) the decision to assimilate. Three paradigm cases were constructed from these themes to illustrate the findings. The essential conflict for the participants in this study was that in order to be normal one must take medication, yet to take medication to be normal means acknowledging the implication that one is not normal.