Schizophrenia, "just the facts" 4. Clinical features and conceptualization

Schizophr Res. 2009 May;110(1-3):1-23. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Mar 27.


Although dementia praecox or schizophrenia has been considered a unique disease entity for the past century, its definitions and boundaries have continued to vary over this period. At any given time, the changing concept of schizophrenia has been influenced by available diagnostic tools and treatments, related conditions from which it most needs to be distinguished, extant knowledge and scientific paradigms. There is significant heterogeneity in the etiopathology, symptomatology, and course of schizophrenia. It is characterized by an admixture of positive, negative, cognitive, mood, and motor symptoms whose severity varies across patients and through the course of the illness. Positive symptoms usually first begin in adolescence or early adulthood, but are often preceded by varying degrees of negative and cognitive symptomatology. Schizophrenia tends to be a chronic and relapsing disorder with generally incomplete remissions, variable degrees of functional impairment and social disability, frequent comorbid substance abuse, and decreased longevity. Although schizophrenia may not represent a single disease with a unitary etiology or pathogenetic process, alternative approaches have thus far been unsuccessful in better defining this syndrome or its component entities. The symptomatologic, course, and etio-pathological heterogeneity can usefully be addressed by a dimensional approach to psychopathology, a clinical staging approach to illness course, and by elucidating endophenotypes and markers of illness progression, respectively. This will allow an approach to the deconstruction of schizophrenia into its multiple component parts and strategies to reconfigure these components in a more meaningful manner. Possible implications for DSM-V and ICD-11 definitions of schizophrenia are discussed.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Progression
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / history
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*