Schizophrenia - History


Accounts of a schizophrenia-like syndrome are thought to be rare in the historical record before the 19th century, although reports of irrational, unintelligible, or uncontrolled behavior were common. A detailed case report in 1797 concerning James Tilly Matthews, and accounts by Phillipe Pinel published in 1809, are often regarded as the earliest cases of the illness in the medical and psychiatric literature. The term dementia praecox was used in 1891 by Arnold Pick in a case report of a psychotic disorder. In 1893 Emil Kraepelin introduced a broad new distinction in the classification of mental disorders between dementia praecox and mood disorder (termed manic depression and including both unipolar and bipolar depression). Kraepelin believed that dementia praecox was primarily a disease of the brain, and particularly a form of dementia, distinguished from other forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease which typically occur later in life. It is sometimes argued that the use of the term démence précoce in 1852 by the French physician Bénédict Morel constitutes the medical discovery of schizophrenia. However this account ignores the fact that there is little to connect Morel's descriptive use of the term and the independent development of the dementia praecox disease concept at the end of the nineteenth-century.

The word schizophrenia—which translates roughly as "splitting of the mind" and comes from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, "to split") and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, "mind")—was coined by Eugen Bleuler in 1908 and was intended to describe the separation of function between personality, thinking, memory, and perception. Bleuler described the main symptoms as 4 A's: flattened Affect, Autism, impaired Association of ideas and Ambivalence. Bleuler realized that the illness was not a dementia, as some of his patients improved rather than deteriorated, and thus proposed the term schizophrenia instead. Treatment was revolutionized in the mid-1950s with the development and introduction of chlorpromazine.

In the early 1970s, the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia were the subject of a number of controversies which eventually led to the operational criteria used today. It became clear after the 1971 US-UK Diagnostic Study that schizophrenia was diagnosed to a far greater extent in America than in Europe. This was partly due to looser diagnostic criteria in the US, which used the DSM-II manual, contrasting with Europe and its ICD-9. David Rosenhan's 1972 study, published in the journal Science under the title "On being sane in insane places", concluded that the diagnosis of schizophrenia in the US was often subjective and unreliable. These were some of the factors leading to the revision not only of the diagnosis of schizophrenia, but the revision of the whole DSM manual, resulting in the publication of the DSM-III in 1980. The term schizophrenia is commonly misunderstood to mean that affected persons have a "split personality". Although some people diagnosed with schizophrenia may hear voices and may experience the voices as distinct personalities, schizophrenia does not involve a person changing among distinct multiple personalities. The confusion arises in part due to the literal interpretation of Bleuler's term schizophrenia (Bleuler originally associated Schizophrenia with dissociation and included split personality in his category of Schizophrenia). Dissociative identity disorder (having a "split personality") was also often misdiagnosed as Schizophrenia based on the loose criteria in the DSM-II. The first known misuse of the term to mean "split personality" was in an article by the poet T. S. Eliot in 1933.

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