International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 3 Num. 2 - December 2003


Consciousness Disorders in Schizophrenia: A Forgotten Land for Psychopathology [Trastornos de Conciencia en Esquizofrenia: Una Tierra Olvidad para la Psicopatolog?a]

Volume 3 Num. 2 - December 2003 - Pages 209-234


Jos? M. Villagr


The scientific study of consciousness has been boosted in the last two decades, especially from philosophical and neuroscientific realms. Before that, the topic was neglected, particularly in psychiatry in which, either out-of-consciousness experiences were emphasized (as in psychoanalysis) or consciousness was viewed as epiphenomenic to the underlying organic disorders that had to be studied. This situation has hardly improved in modern psychiatry, perhaps due to the persistence of two competing metaphors of consciousness and of psychiatric constructs (such as kraepelinian dementia praecox) from which consciousness disorders were originally excluded. Accordingly, the role of a disordered consciousness in schizophrenia, which nevertheless was contemplated by Continental psychiatry, has hardly been considered by recent psychopathology research. However, there is growing data showing that certain functions that modern science considers to be part of consciousness (sense of agency, self, episodic and autobiographic memory, executive functions, insight, monitoring) could be impaired in certain schizophrenics and that this may account for symptoms such as thought insertion, depersonalisation, auditory hallucinations, self fragmentation, disorders of episodic and working memory, passive experiences and delusions of control. In this paper the conceptual history of consciousness in psychology, neurology and psychiatry is outlined, and the most prominent recent approaches to the study of its role in schizophrenia are reviewed.

Key words:

psychopathology, schizophrenia, consciousness, conceptual history

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