Eugen Bleuler: A Pioneer Of Schizophrenia

Eugen Bleuler was a Swiss psychiatrist who coined the term “schizophrenia”. Thanks to his work, schizophrenia studies reached a new high. But what was his work about? Read on to learn more about it.
Eugen Bleuler: a pioneer of schizophrenia

Eugen Bleuler was born in Zurich in 1857. During his professional career he made countless contributions to psychology. Below we will delve deeper into the life of this psychiatrist and some of his more famous and accomplished works.

Before we report on the life of Eugen Bleuler , it is important to mention the influence that Freud had on him. Bleuler was so fascinated by Freud’s work that it became the basis of his own research. You will understand later how he influenced Bleuler’s studies.

Eugen Bleuler: The early years

Bleuler began his medical studies in Zurich, which we can also see in the article “Paul Eugen Bleuler and the origin of the term schizophrenia”. After working as a medical psychiatrist, Bleuler lived in Paris, London and Munich to continue his research in psychology.

In Munich he worked in a laboratory until 1885. In the same year he became a doctor’s assistant in Burghölzli. A year later, at the age of only 29, he became director of the Rheinau psychiatric clinic. After this excellent start to his professional career and exactly 12 years later, he became a lecturer at the University of Zurich.

Eugen Bleuler was very interested in Freud's theories

Freud’s Studies on Hysteria

Eugen Bleuler was very interested in Freud’s studies on hysteria. He was particularly interested in hypnosis and introspection. This led him to read everything Freud had to say on the matter.

Although Bleuler seemed fixated on Freud’s studies, he was nonetheless very careful with what he read. Eugen Bleuler was uncomfortable with some of Freud’s concepts, such as the libido.

Although he greatly admired Freud and used the concepts of psychoanalysis to find great answers, Bleuler disagreed on many of his concepts.

The term schizophrenia

According to the article “Paul Eugen Bleuler and the Birth of Schizophrenia (1908)” Bleuler first coined the term in April 1908. This was possible thanks to some concepts from Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis.

He also repeated the concept of dementia that Kraepelin had already developed. However, Eugen Bleuler recognized that this term was referring to one of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

After carefully examining the subject, he concluded that some people suffer from a split in their thought process. Using the Greek language, he put the words skhízō (split) and phrḗn (spirit) together and created the term schizophrenia .

Eugen Bleuler was a Swiss psychiatrist who coined the term "schizophrenia"

The subtypes of schizophrenia

After Eugen Bleuler had coined the term, he researched this disease further and relied on Kraepelin’s research on dementia. He concluded that schizophrenia has several subtypes:

  • paranoid
  • unorganized
  • catatonic

All of these subtypes had already been established by Kraepelin, but Bleuler also had theories of his own. Kraepelin’s dementia was not always part of a progressive deterioration, it did not appear early, and its subtypes were not exclusive.

It was for this reason that Bleuler conducted his research to shape a new concept that was more in line with what he had learned. Therefore, this term is clearer these days thanks to the work of this psychiatrist.

Eugen Bleuler and eugenic sterilization

The concept of eugenic sterilization is also worth mentioning. This was a process used to sterilize people with schizophrenia to prevent children from inheriting the disorder.

Nowadays, schizophrenia is no longer considered a hereditary disease. Just because someone in the family had it doesn’t mean it has to affect other family members too. However, there were few studies of schizophrenia during Bleuler’s lifetime, and research was only just beginning.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Eugen Bleuler paved the way for the investigation of a disease that today affects more than 21 million people. He has done an incredible job with his research, and while there is still much to learn, he has made valuable breakthroughs.

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