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Psychopathology, Greek ψυχή (psyche) soul, πάθος (pathos) suffering (society), illness, doctrine of the suffering of the soul is a scientific discipline that forms part of psychiatry and clinical psychology . It deals with the recording of the different forms of a pathologically changed or disturbed experience and behavior. To this end, it describes psychological symptoms which, in their complexity, are then referred to as manifestations of mental illness. The term was first coined by the Freiburg psychiatrist Hermann Emminghaus .

Mental functions to be examined

The following psychological functions are thereby u. a. examined:

Psychopathology can be understood as a scientific methodology of psychiatry, whereby psychological categories of thought are applied to mental illnesses. The psychological side behind abnormal mental phenomena and states is examined. A vocabulary is thus provided in order to be able to describe, classify and partly explain psychological symptoms as precisely as possible .

Psychopathology is mostly taught as a branch of psychiatry in medical faculties; at some universities, however, also as a branch of clinical psychology.


The psychopathological symptoms (individual signs of illness) and syndromes (groups of signs of illness) form an important set of instruments for psychiatric and psychological diagnosis . The results of this are recorded in the psychopathological report .

Cataloging symptoms

The system of the Working Group for Methodology and Documentation in Psychiatry ( AMDP system ) has carried out a comprehensive cataloging of the large number of disorder symptoms. This resulted in the following structure:

Each of these symptom groups in turn contains several more precisely specified symptoms.

Health, disease and disorder

In modern psychiatry and psychotherapy, it is preferred to speak of disorder (subdivided into mental disorder and behavioral disorder ) instead of illness , because the word illness can stigmatize . In addition, the previous descriptions of mental disorders are strictly speaking only symptom complexes ( syndromes ), but not diseases in the traditional medical sense (such as infectious diseases ). The term disease would only be appropriate if the causes, symptom patterns, course, treatment, etc. were known and unambiguous. This, however, is not the case with any of the syndromes that are treated in psychiatry and clinical psychology today.

To approximate a definition, u. a. the following points are examined: statistical rarity, inappropriate reactions, psychological strain, violation of social norms (see section What is a mental disorder? ). If some of these criteria are met, a mental or behavioral disorder can be assumed. For an exact determination, however, a detailed survey of the medical history ( anamnesis ) and differentiation from other clinical pictures ( differential diagnosis ) is required . After the precise, further investigation ( exploration ) of possible disease symptoms, the appropriate diagnosis is made with the help of a classification system ( ICD-10 or DSM-5 ). A diagnosis also serves to select therapy methods.

Psychopathology vs. pathology

While pathology (pathological anatomy) examines the physical aspects of sickness and illness, psychopathology deals with their psychological conditions. Since psychopathology also encompasses the physical effects on mental health, one of its main areas is psychophysical correlation ; H. the connection between physical and mental abnormalities. Even today there is still competition between different theories in medicine, resulting from the mind- body problem , which has been dialectically unexplained for over 2000 years . The historically most important connection is that of psychopathology and neurology . From this the historically significant positions of the somatics developed .

Significant advances in psychopathology have resulted from the knowledge of neurological laws; B. in the field of achievement psychology based on the reflex arc . Therapeutically, these ideas were able to prove themselves as a learning-theoretical basis of behavior therapy ( Pavlov ). Conversely, the results of psychopathological investigations have also favored the development of conventional (physical) medicine ( psychosomatic medicine ). Methodological differences exist e.g. B. in the opposing perspectives of the upward and downward effects for the development of diseases. Upward effect means that diseases are caused by physical changes, downward effect means disease development through mental abnormalities. This concept represents the principle of interactions between body and soul, which is considered most likely today (Schischkoff 1982). Pathology and psychopathology were both able to make significant contributions to the theory of diseases ( nosology ). The demarcation of the two areas thus produced clear advantages for both.

The overrating of one of the two disciplines is to be regarded as disadvantageous. This would be, on the one hand, the standpoint of materialism , which has become conceptually known as the machine paradigm in pathology , and, on the other hand, the attitude of psychologism , which mainly arose in the period of Romanticism. In terms of medical history, the viewpoints of the psychics and somatics have also become significant during this time . However, the psychicists must not be confused with the psychologizing theorists of psychologism . They took a more educational approach. As Neurologisierung the overemphasis neurological aspects of psychopathology to be mentioned as such. B. was represented by Wilhelm Griesinger (1817–1868) with his conclusion: "Mental illnesses are brain diseases". His point of view could therefore be described as that of a somatic man.


The history of psychopathology is closely related to the history of psychiatry . The beginnings of psychopathology can be traced back to antiquity, e.g. B. be estimated in Aristotle's work de anima . The newer psychopathology began in the 19th century. It was systematically processed by Karl Jaspers , a study by Sigmund Freud deals with the "psychopathology of everyday life" .

The increasingly scientifically based design of the ICD ( International Classification of Diseases ) and DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ) disease classification systems is a reflection of the latest developments in psychopathology with regard to disease diagnoses .

See also



  • German Berrios: The History of Mental Symptoms , Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43736-9 .
  • Erwin H. Ackerknecht (1985): Brief history of psychiatry , 3rd edition. Enke Verlag, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-432-80043-6 , page 59.
  • Werner Leibbrand , Annemarie Wettley : The madness. History of occidental psychopathology , 1961 (= Orbis Academicus , II, 12).
  • Norbert Andersch: 1929–2009. 80 years ago. On the pathology of symbolic awareness. Ernst Cassirer's unredeemed contribution to a radical reform of psychopathology. In: Bernd Holdorff , Ekkehard Kumbier (Hrsg.): Series of publications by the German Society for the History of Neurology. Volume 16, Würzburg 2010, pp. 109-124.


  • Christian Scharfetter: General Psychopathology. 6th edition, Thieme, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3135315065 .
  • Theo R. Payk: Psychopathology. From symptom to diagnosis. 2nd edition, Springer 2007, ISBN 978-3-540-35451-2 (= Springer textbook ).
  • Ernst Ryffel (2012): New Psychopathology , ISBN 978-3-033-03273-6
  • Karl Jaspers : General Psychopathology: A Guide for Students, Doctors and Psychologists , reprint of the 5th edition from 1946. Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 2013, ISBN 978-3-642-49410-9 .

Dictionary entries

  • Georgi Schischkoff: Philosophical Dictionary. 14th edition. Alfred Kröner-Verlag, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-520-01321-5 ; Entry body-soul problem (page 402), cf. also Peters, ibid, and his concept of psychophysical correlation.
  • Uwe Henrik Peters (1984): Dictionary of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology. 3rd edition, Urban & Schwarzenberg; Entry psychopathology (page 449f.) And entry Griesinger, Wilhelm (page 223) here for the taxonomy neurologization

Web links

Wiktionary: Psychopathology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Hermann Emminghaus (1878): General psychopathology as an introduction to the study of mental disorders . ( Digitized version ).
  2. Psychopathology in DORSCH Lexicon of Psychology
  3. a b Pschyrembel clinical dictionary , Verlag deGruyter, 267th edition 2017 ( ISBN 978-3-11-049497-6 ). ( Keyword psychopathology, online )
  4. Psychopathology In: Uwe Henrik Peters : Dictionary of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology. 1999, ISBN 3-86047-864-8 , pp. 422-423.
  5. Gerald C. Davison, John M. Neale, Martin Hautzinger (2016): Clinical Psychology. Beltz Verlag , ISBN 978-3-621-28441-7 . P. 6f. ( Reading sample )
  6. a b Uwe Henrik Peters : Dictionary of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology . Urban & Schwarzenberg, Munich 3rd edition 1984, Stw. Psychopathologie, page 449.
  7. Erwin H. Ackerknecht : Brief history of psychiatry. Enke, Stuttgart 3 1985, ISBN 3-432-80043-6 , page 59 f.