Emil Kraepelin: The Father of Modern Psychiatry

Emil Kraepelin

    Known as the father of modern psychiatry, German physician Emil Kraepelin maintained that most mental illnesses were engendered by certain biological factors. Kraepelin furnished a circumstantial and detailed classification of mental illnesses, scilicet Dementia Praecox, in his book “Textbook of Psychiatry” that was published in 1883. Dementia praecox means “early dementia,” and it was termed so to sequester it from late dementia which was later called Alzheimer’s. Besides, he was a strong supporter of eugenics.

    Although the word “dementia” was used for the first time by Lucretius, Roman poet and philosopher, in his poetic work “On the Nature of things”, Kraepelin was the one who provided many details in his book “Textbook of Psychiatry”. This disease is now called Schizophrenia. In 1893, Kraepelin described dementia praecox as consisting of a sequence of asocial and apathetic conditions in which the individual is at loss to behave normally.

    “A series of clinical states which hold as their common peculiar destruction of the internal connections of the psychic personality.”

    As per his observation, this ailment may start in the late teens or early adulthood, and is marked by peculiar aloofness and confused behaviour. Kraepelin further categorized it as simple dementia, paranoia, hebephrenia, and catatonia.

    In simple dementia, the patient experiences slow descent in performance of faculties. As the patient can no longer perform as its peers, the patient may start to avoid social gatherings and withdraw from society. He struggles to remember, think, or make decisions properly.

    In paranoia, the patient is under a constant threat of being spied upon or someone may come to get him. This state bitterly interferes with the patients not only social relationships but also close relationships, like siblings or espouse.

    Hebephrenia, also called disorganized schizophrenia, is characterized by choppy and incoherent speech, and inappropriate reactions which do not conform to the situation, for example, show of anger at something lovely. During this stage, the patient may or may not experience hallucinations.

    In Catatonia, the patient has very limited movement and remains sedate most of the time. Besides, there is also rigidity in behaviour. For instance, the patient may sit for hours at one place or would move back and forth. During this stage, the patient experience many episodes of hallucination.

    Emil Kraepelin was an ardent supporter of eugenics and Degeneration theory. Eugenics, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, is defined as the selection of desired heritable characteristics in order to improve future generations. Degeneration theory states that the Aryan race was degenerating into higher rates of mental illness and other conditions due to various undesirables in its midst. Kraepelin wanted to preserve the true German race. In his paper “Psychiatric Observations on Contemporary Issues” published in 1919, Kraepelin asserted that certain people like poets, dreamers, and Jews have some traits which digress from normality and eventually cause psychopathy.

    Emil Kraepelin’s work holds immense importance in the field of psychology. His support for eugenics with respect to Germans laid the foundation for the ideology of Master Race during WWII. German dictator Adolf Hitler wanted to raise an army of Germans who had genes of only Aryans, which according to him, was the most accomplished and exceptional race on earth. To this end, he proscribed people of pure German origin to mingle with those who were non-Germans, Jews, disable, and some other.

    Besides, Kraepelin’s classifications form the basis of Schizophrenia diagnosis even today. In 1948 the World Health Organization (WHO) included Kraepelin’s classifications of mental illnesses in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). In addition to this, it has been proven through postmortem examinations that schizophrenic patients sustain certain biochemical and structural brain abnormalities. This conclusion is in conformity with Kraepelin’s idea that a great number of mental illnesses are strictly biological in origin. His work has a lasting influence in the field of psychiatry and his views have dominated many portions of psychiatric research. His theories about the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders form the basis of many big diagnostic systems used in the world today. about the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders. This includes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD) of the American Psychiatric Association and World Health Organization, respectively.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post