Recovering the Context in Psychopathology

  • Eric Chen
Part of the Theory and History in the Human and Social Sciences book series (THHSS)


The discipline of descriptive psychopathology does not feature prominently in the modern practice of psychiatry. The evaluation of mental symptoms nevertheless remains the cornerstone in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. An impoverished discipline of psychopathology can impede progress in the identification, classification, and treatment of mental conditions. One of the modern tendencies in the practice of psychopathology is to isolate mental symptoms as discrete and independent entities, separate from the sociocultural, environmental, and the personal developmental contexts. Such narrow demarcation of symptoms compromises the potentials for a richer understanding of illness mechanisms and the prediction of outcome. This paper explores some of the historical factors contributing to the current circumstances. Through clinical examples, several directions for accomplishing a more nuanced handling of symptoms are suggested.


Psychopathology Context Symptoms Psychotic experiences Thought disorder 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong

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