Melancholia as a desynchronization: towards a psychopathology of interpersonal time

Psychopathology. 2001 Jul-Aug;34(4):179-86. doi: 10.1159/000049304.


Starting from psychopathological analyses of lived time in melancholia, the paper first examines the continuous processes of synchronization effective in biological as well as social life. These processes enable the individual to compensate for states of shortage, to adapt to changed circumstances, finish with past events and reconnect with the present. Examples of such resynchronizing processes are regeneration, sleep, dreaming, forgetting, remorse or grief. Melancholia is then interpreted as the result of a desynchronization, i.e. an uncoupling in the temporal relation of organism and environment, or of individual and society. With the processes of resynchronization failing, the person falls out of common environmental time. This conception allows a parallel to be drawn between chronobiological and psychosocial results of research. Moreover, it offers the possibility to understand not only the psychopathology, but also the triggering of melancholic episodes on the basis of a disturbance of time. Consequences for a 'resynchronizing therapy' are outlined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Dreams
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Periodicity
  • Sleep*