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The diagnosis and classification of mental disorders in French-speaking countries: background, current views and comparison with other nomenclatures1

  • P. Pichot (a1)


A detailed account is given of the historical background and current status of the concepts of transitory delusional state (bouffée délirante) and chronic delusional state in French psychiatry. Their relations with other nosological systems are discussed.


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2Address for correspondence: Professor P. Pichot, Centre Hospitalier Sainte-Anne, 100 rue de la Santé, 75674 Paris Cedex 14, France.


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This is an abridged version of a contribution to Sources and Traditions in Contemporary Psychiatry (ed. A. Jablensky, N. Sartorius, R. Hirschfeld and H. Pardes). WHO: Geneva (in the press).



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The references listed below are limited to the bare minimum required to document the main points made in this paper. Some are typewritten doctoral theses to be found only in the libraries of the medical schools where they are on deposit.

On Magnan's theories: Magnan, V. & Legrain, M. (1895). Les Dégénénérés (État mental et syndromes épisodiques). Rueff et Cie: Paris.
More generally: Magnan, V. (1893). Leçons ctiniques sur les maladies mentates (2nd edn). Louis Bataille: Paris.
The keystone of Magnan's theories, Délire chronique à évolution systemátique/chronic delusional stale of systematic evolution, is described in: Magnan, V. & Sérieux, P. (1893). Le délire chronique à évolution systématique. Gauthier villars/Georges Masson: Paris.
An accurate and well documented review of Magnan's ideas on pathogenesis is given in: Genil-Perrin, G. (1913). Histoire des origines et de l'évolution de l'idée de dégénéréscence en médecine mentale. Alfred Leclerc: Paris (doctoral thesis).
The original description of bouffées délirantes/transitory delusional states is found in: Legrain, M. (1886). Du délire chez les dégénérés. Librairie A. Deshaye et E. Lecrosnier: Paris (doctoral thesis).
Two important general reviews are included in: Dublineau, J. (1932). Lea bouffées délirantes; revue génénérale. Semaine des hōpitaux 1, 2530.
Appia, O.. (1964). Evolution de la notion de bouffée délirante polymorphe dans la psychiatric française despuis Magnan jusqu'ànos jours. Dactylo-Sorbonne: Paris (doctoral thesis).
The original description of Délire d'interpretation (Sérieux.Capgras type) is: Sérieux, P. & Capgras, J. (1909). Les folies raisonnantes. Le délire d'interprétation. Felix Alcan: Paris. (See review of this book in English in American Journal of Insanity 64, 182.)
A penetrating analysis of trends between the two World Wars is given in: Sérieux, P. & Capgras, J. (1926). Délires systematisés chroniques. In Traité de pathologie médicate et de thérapeutique apptiquée. Vol. 7, Book 1: Psychiatrie (second edition) (ed. Sergent, E., Ribadau-Dumas, L. and Babonneix, L.), pp. 233311. Maloine: Paris.
G. de Cltéambault's concepts of erotic and conjugal paranoia are described in a series of papers collected in: Clerambault, G. de (1942). Oeuvre psychiarrique (2 vols). Presses Universities de France: Paris.
The original description of Chronic Hallucinatory Psychosis is found in: Ballet, G. (1911). La psychose hallucinatoire chronique. Encéphale 6, 401411.
Ballet, G. (1913). La psychose hallucinatoire chronique et la désagrégation de la personalité. Encéphale 8, 501508.
A subsequent classical description is given in: Sérieux, & Capgras, (1926).
The most recent overview is: Dalle, B. (1964). Les syndromes hallucinatoires idiopathiques chroniques de l' adulte. Lille (doctoral thesis).
Chronic imaginative psychosis was originally described in: Dupré, E. & Logre, J. (1911). Les délires d'imagination. Mythomanie délirante. Encéphale 6, 209232, 337–350, 430–450.
The classical subsequent description is: Sérieux, & Capgras, (1926).
The theories of the Structuralist School of Psychiatry were first published in: Nodet, C. (1937). Le groupe des psychoses hallucinatoires chroniques. Doin: Paris.
The complex historical relations between imaginative delusional states and Kraepelin's paraphrenias are reviewed in: Bridgman, F. (1972). Le groupe des paraphrénies dans ses rapports avec la classification française des troubles mentaux. Dupuytren-Copy: Paris (doctoral thesis).
Current French nomenclature is reflected in: Encyclopédie Medico-Chirurgicale, Psychiatrie Clinique et Thérapeutique. (3 vols.) Editions Techniques: Paris (published periodically).
Ey, H., Bernard, P. & Brisset, C. (1974). Manuel de Psychiatrie (4th edn). Masson et Cie: Paris.
Guelfi, J. (1979). Eléments de psychiatrie (2nd edn). Editions médicales et universitaires: Paris.
Lempériére, T. & Feline, A. (1977). Psychiatric de l'adulte. Masson: Paris.
The full title of the official French nomenclature published by INSERM is: Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale. Section Psychiatrie. Classification française des troubles mentaux. Paris (1968). Bulletin de l'institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale 24 (1969), Supplement to No. 2.
Standard nomenclatures used for purposes of comparison: World Health Organization (1977). International Classiflcarion of Diseases (9th revision, ICD-9), vol. I. WHO: Geneva.
American Psychiatric Association (1980). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Menral Disorders (3rd edn, DSM-III). APA: Washington, D.C.
World Health Organization (1978). Mental Disorders: Glossary and Guide to Their Classification in Accordance with the Ninth Revision of the International Classification of Diseases. WHO: Geneva.
The incidence of disorders in France is taken from: Pichot, P. & Debray, H. (1971). Hospitalisation psychiarrique. Staristique descriptive. Sandoz Editions: Paris.

The diagnosis and classification of mental disorders in French-speaking countries: background, current views and comparison with other nomenclatures1

  • P. Pichot (a1)


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