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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: May 2019

9 - The Study of Clinical Psychology and Unusual Mental States in France


A Sketch of the History of Psychiatry in the Nineteenth Century: Introduction to Chapters 9 and 10

As made clear in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–V–TR) (2013, see p. 164), the subject matter of psychiatry is pathological thinking and behavior. Psychology is frequently divided roughly into the study of thinking and the study of behavior, two disciplines that are closely related to each other. As we shall see in Chapters 9 and 10, some interactions have occurred between the two disciplines, but on the whole they have developed independently of each other. I shall therefore not go into a detailed study of the history of psychiatry. To understand the development of clinical psychology, however, and as a background for Chapters 9 and 10, I shall present a sketch of the history of psychiatry in the 1800s.

Mental illness is universal among the peoples of the world, as shown in Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry (Sadock and Sadock, 2007). Although the prevalence and manifestations of mental disorders vary with culture and history, mental illness is not a myth created by psychiatrists, or explicable as deviations from social norms or as stigmatization of specific groups of people. Therefore, as Brendan and Winnifred Maher (1985a, b) point out, while the names of mental disorders have changed through Western history, our ancestors were plagued by many of the same types of mental disorders as afflict us today. Thus, when psychiatry was being established as a specialty of modern medicine at the beginning of the 1800s, its pioneers were confronted with many of the same mental disorders as are treated in modern healthcare: intellectual and developmental disabilities, senile dementia, the effects of alcohol abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders as well as other anxiety disorders.

The development of psychiatry as a scientific discipline probably owes much to the general progress made in medicine. But as Henri Ellenberger (1970, p. 197) shows, the ideas of the Enlightenment may also have contributed to its advance, by dispelling the medieval view of mental disorders as caused by evil spirits and encouraging a more respectful view of the mentally ill.

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A History of Modern Psychology
  • Online ISBN: 9781316272442
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