Would I take antipsychotics, if I had psychotic symptoms? Examining determinants of the decision to take antipsychotics
Poor adherence to treatment in schizophrenia is mainly associated to patients-related factors. However, social negative representations of schizophrenia and its treatment may also contribute to patients' decision to take or not to take antipsychotics. A web-based study on 1,807 participants was conducted during which participants imagined that they had a particular chronic illness based on clinical vignettes (mental illnesses: schizophrenia, depression; somatic illnesses: multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis). Participants rated their subjective distress and perceived social stigma associated with each illness. They also rated the perceived treatability of the illness, their belief in the effectiveness of treatment, and their treatment preference regarding medication. Results show that schizophrenia was considered more distressful, less treatable and associated with higher social stigma than somatic illnesses. Medication was less preferred for treating schizophrenia compared to somatic illnesses. Perceived treatability of illness and belief in the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment were the factors driving preference for medication in schizophrenia and depression, respectively; these factors had weaker influence on preference for medication in somatic illnesses. Our study points out more severe negative representations of mental illnesses in general, and their treatment, particularly schizophrenia. These attitudes are not confined to patients, and may influence patients' decisions to take psychotropic drugs.