Mental Health

The History of Psychotic Disorders

The History of Psychotic Disorders Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Which physicians identified the most common psychotic disorders?

This is part three of an eight-part series where we discuss the physicians who charted the most common mental illnesses. A little-discussed topic that is nevertheless very interesting.

The history of psychotic disorders: schizophrenia, paranoia, psychosis

Who first described schizophrenia?

Emil Kraepelin
Emil Kraepelin

dr. Emil Kraepelin first described schizophrenia in 1896, when he was director of a university psychiatric clinic in Estonia.

Kraepelin recognized “paranoia” as a “nosological entity” in the 6th edition of his textbook in 1899.

At this time, the term “paranoia” was already widely used in Germany and the United States, but the diagnostic concept was not yet clearly defined.

Eugen Bleuler
Eugen Bleuler

In 1908, Swiss professor Eugen Bleuler first used the term schizophrenia to mean splitting of the mind. This term would replace “dementia praecox”, literally premature senility. The term was used to describe young people who were chronically confused.

In 1921, Kraepelin first proposed three different presentations of paranoia that correspond to the diagnoses of schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and paranoid personality disorder.

Who first described paranoia?


During Greek antiquity, the term paranoia was already used by the physician-philosophers Plato (428-348 BC) and Aristotle (343-322 BC), as well as by Hippocrates (450-355 BC).

Francois Boissier de Sauvages

After the term “paranoia” lay dormant for about two millennia, it was revived in the writings of the “nosologists” in the second half of the 18th century. It reappeared for the first time in 1759, in Francois Boissier de Sauvages‘ “Pathologia Methodica”.

Who first described psychosis?

Karl Friedrich Canstatt

The term psychosis was first introduced in 1841 by Karl Friedrich Canstatt, who used it as an abbreviation for “psychic neurosis” in his “Handbuch der Medicinischen Klinik.”

At that time, the term neurosis was used to refer to a disease of the nervous system. Hence, Canstatt described psychosis as a symptom of brain disease.





Oxford Bibliographies: History of psychotic disorders

History: Brief Psychotic Disorder Clinical Presentation

Psychosis: a history of the concept

A brief historical approach about the concept of paranoia

Historical and Contemporary Understandings of Schizophrenia

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