Phenomenology of anomalous self-experience in early schizophrenia

Compr Psychiatry. 2003 Mar-Apr;44(2):121-34. doi: 10.1053/comp.2003.50017.


Disorders of self-experience were emphasized in classic literature and in phenomenological psychiatry as essential clinical features of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, but are neglected in the contemporary psychopathology due to epistemologically motivated distrust of studying anomalies of subjectivity. Based on our own and other empirical studies, we present here detailed clinical phenomenological descriptions of nonpsychotic anomalies of self-experience that may be observable in the prodromal phases of schizophrenia and in the schizotypal disorders. Anomalies of self-experience are grouped according the experiential domain that appears to be affected and are illustrated by short vignettes or verbatim quotes from the patients. It is suggested that disorders of the self deserve further systematic empirical investigations, also from an etiological perspective. Self-disorders may turn out to be potentially useful as a psychopathological organizer of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Psychopathological emphasis on these disorders may also help to integrate the search for the neurodevelopmental mechanisms in schizophrenia with developmental-psychological research on the ontogenesis of the self.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depersonalization*
  • Disease Progression
  • Ego*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Disorders / psychology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Self Concept*