Abnormal Psychology: Mental Health and Mental Illness

Major Mental Illnesses

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is perhaps the most disabling of the major mental illnesses. Although descriptions of similar clinical presentations date back to the earliest periods of written history, the term “schizophrenia” and the current definition of the disorder are relatively recent. The German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) first distinguished between manic depressive illness and dementia praecox, or what was later called schizophrenia. The Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939) coined the actual term “schizophrenia” from the Greek words for “split mind.” According to DSM-IV, schizophrenia is characterized by two or more of the following symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms. These symptoms must have been present for at least one month, and result in significant social or occupational impairment and/or reduction in self-care. Some sign of the disorder must have been present for at least six months, and the symptoms cannot be due to another condition (such as substance-induced psychosis or a medical condition).


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