Introducing the Basics
History and Pioneers
What influence did Emil Kraepelin and Eugen Bleuler have on views of mental illness?
Even though both Kraepelin and Bleuler were psychiatrists rather than psychologists, their contributions to psychiatric diagnosis have profoundly impacted the entire mental health field. Psychiatry came into its own as a distinct medical field in the early nineteenth century. Concerned with severe mental illness, early psychiatry had little overlap with early psychology, which focused more on normal mental processes. With the later development of clinical psychology, however, psychiatry and psychology became more intertwined.
The German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926) first distinguished between manic depressive illness and dementia praecox, or what was later called schizophrenia. He saw manic depression as a milder form of illness with a more optimistic prognosis. In contrast, dementia praecox was seen as a progressively deteriorating illness with little hope of cure. Of course, there were no medicines available in the nineteenth century to effectively treat these conditions.
The Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939) was the director of the renowned Burgholzli psychiatric hospital. Bleuler coined the term schizophrenia from the Greek words for “split mind.” He believed schizophrenia encompassed a group of diseases, which he subdivided into hebephrenic, catatonic, and paranoid subtypes. He also introduced the term autism to describe the schizophrenic’s withdrawal from the outer world.