Eugen Bleuler's Dementia praecox or the group of schizophrenias (1911): a centenary appreciation and reconsideration

Schizophr Bull. 2011 May;37(3):471-9. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbr016.


On the 100th anniversary of the publication of Eugen Bleuler's Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias, his teachings on schizophrenia from that seminal book are reviewed and reassessed, and implications for the current revision of the category of schizophrenia, with its emphasis on psychotic symptoms, drawn. Bleuler's methods are contrasted with Kraepelin's, and 4 myths about his concept of schizophrenia addressed. We demonstrate that (1) Bleuler's concept of schizophrenia has close ties to historical and contemporary concepts of dissociation and as such the public interpretation of schizophrenia as split personality has some historical basis; (2) Bleuler's concept of loosening of associations does not refer narrowly to a disorder of thought but broadly to a core organically based psychological deficit which underlies the other symptoms of schizophrenia; (3) the "4 A's," for association, affect, ambivalence, and autism, do not adequately summarize Bleuler's teachings on schizophrenia and marginalize the central role of splitting in his conception; and (4) Bleuler's ideas were more powerfully influenced by Pierre Janet, particularly with regard to his diagnostic category Psychasthenia, than by Sigmund Freud. We conclude that Bleuler's ideas on schizophrenia warrant reexamination in the light of current criticism of the emphasis on psychotic symptoms in the schizophrenia diagnosis and argue for the recognition of the dissociative roots of this most important psychiatric category.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / history*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia / classification
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / history*

Personal name as subject

  • Eugen Bleuler