Schizophrenia is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder in which vulnerability to stress may be a contributing factor. Coping is an important psychological component of stress processing, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system (HPA system) is one of the biological components of stress adaptation. Disturbances of either of these components may make schizophrenic patients more vulnerable to develop a psychosis under stressful circumstances. In this study, 10 schizophrenic men were compared with 10 healthy male controls in their response to a psychosocial stressor, consisting of a public-speaking task. Heart rate was monitored as a measure of autonomic arousal. HPA responses were assessed by measuring salivary cortisol. Coping skills were measured by using the Utrecht Coping List and the Ways of Coping Checklist. The stress of speaking in public increased the heart rate in both patients and controls; however, a significant cortisol response was found in the controls, but not in the schizophrenic patients. The patients used more passive and avoidant coping strategies than controls. The findings provide support for the notion that schizophrenic patients have an impaired ability to adapt, both psychologically and biologically, to their environment.
|Number of pages||8|
|Publication status||Published - 7 Sep 1998|