Exaggerations in consultations between psychiatrists and patients suffering from psychotic disorders

Authors

  • Rolf Wynn University Hospital of Northern Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  • Svein Bergvik University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway
  • Brita Elvevag National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.v6i1.95

Keywords:

exaggeration, hyperbole, communication, psychotherapy, psychiatrist, doctor patient interaction, everyday conversation

Abstract

We present and discuss instances of exaggeration in consultations between psychiatrists and patients suffering from psychotic disorders. Drawing on a corpus of 15 consultations as well as on instances of exaggeration from non-clinical talk, we discuss how the use of exaggerations in psychiatric interactions differs from the use of exaggerations in everyday conversations. In some interactions involving patients suffering from psychotic disorders, the exaggerations are handled differently from everyday conversations – especially in terms of how the interactants respond to the exaggerations. When an excessive exaggeration is used in an everyday conversation, the interactant typically responds by signalling an understanding of the prior utterance as hyperbolic, for instance by laughing. In contrast, a strategy often chosen by the psychiatrists is to not confirm or challenge the factual content of the exaggeration, but rather to avoid alignment and to change the topic. This strategy appears to be selected when the exaggeration is more exact and less typically hyperbolic in design. While the strategies used to respond to exaggerations in everyday conversations suggest that the interactants understand these exaggerations as figures of speech, the psychiatrists’ responses suggest that they think the patients actually believe in the content of the exaggerations.

Author Biographies

Rolf Wynn, University Hospital of Northern Norway, Tromsø, Norway

University Hospital of Northern Norway, Tromsø, Norway

Svein Bergvik, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

Brita Elvevag, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

Published

2009-07-13

How to Cite

Wynn, R., Bergvik, S., & Elvevag, B. (2009). Exaggerations in consultations between psychiatrists and patients suffering from psychotic disorders. Communication and Medicine, 6(1), 95–105. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.v6i1.95

Issue

Section

Articles