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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Nervenarzt
Volume (Issue) 88(1)
Page(s) 78 - 82
Title of proceedings Nervenarzt
DOI 10.1007/s00115-016-0091-3


In the history of psychiatry, "schizophrenia" has often been portrayed as the discipline's pars pro toto, which prototypically represents mental illness as such and which draws together the fundamental questions concerning psychiatric epistemology and practice. Taking a conceptual history approach, this essay examines how "schizophrenia" is represented in psychiatric discourse and what aspects of its representation account for the pars pro toto status. Three such aspects are identified: a pragmatic, an existential and a justificatory aspect. Following up these aspects in present day psychiatric discourse, it is concluded that "schizophrenia" is losing its special status as the representations of psychiatry and of mental illness have changed and become more diverse. Tentative conclusions regarding current debates about the abolition of "schizophrenia" are drawn.