Unpacking ‘the City’: An experience-based approach to the role of urban living in psychosis

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Abstract

Primarily on the basis of epidemiological studies, recent research in psychiatry has established a robust link between urban living and psychosis. This paper argues first, that an experienced-based approach, moving beyond epidemiology, is needed in order to enable more fine-grained understandings of the city/psychosis nexus. The second part of the paper presents preliminary fieldwork results based on video-elicitation sessions with first-episode patients with psychotic disorders. These results lead to the generation of a series of hypotheses for further research on the role of density, sensory overload and social interaction as factors in the onset of non-affective psychoses. The conclusion discusses the insights gained from viewing the city as an experiential milieu rather than as a set of substances. We argue that such insights enable, on the one hand, observation of the role of specific places and situations - and thus to unpack ‘the city’; and, on the other, to envisage the urban milieu as a nexus of possible sites of recovery.

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