Acute Encephalitis Lethargica (1925)

 

Schizophenia Is Not What It Used to Be

“The word “schizophrenia” was coined by the Swiss professor of psychiatry Eugen Bleuler in 1908. Previously, the names for chronic insanity ranged from “démence précoce,” the term coined by French psychiatrist Bénédict Morel in 1860, and “dementia praecox,” the word used by German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin in 1893. In Kraepelin’s and Bleuler’s views, chronic insanity like dementia praecox or what we today call “schizophrenia” was a homogeneous disease entity with a presumed biological cause.

And at the time Kraepelin and Bleuler were writing, this was apparently true–at least in some of their patients.

A number of Kraepelin’s and Bleuler’s patients apparently had a condition that had a true biological cause–namely, encephalitis lethargica, a viral disease that produces inflammation of the brainEncephalitis lethargica was unknown in the nineteenth century; thus psychiatrists like Kraepelin might well have confused its symptoms with other mental illnesses that had no such biological cause.”

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