Schizophrenia as a disorder of the self

M.G. Henriksen1,2, J. Nordgaard1

1 Psychiatric Center Hvidovre, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; 2 Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark


This paper offers an overview of a current direction of clinical and empirical research in schizophrenia, viz. the phenomenologically informed approach that regards the generative disturbance of schizophrenia as a specific disorder of the self. Empirical studies have recently documented that anomalous self-experiences (i.e. self-disorders) aggregate in schizophrenia spectrum disorders, but not in other mental disorders. What appears to underlie this aggregation of self-disorders is an instability of the first-person perspective, which threatens the most basic experience of being a subject of awareness and action. In this paper, we elicit the meaning of the phenomenological notion of “disordered self” in schizophrenia spectrum disorders, we offer rich clinical descriptions of self-disorders, and we provide a concise overview of results from contemporary empirical studies. Finally, we provide some suggestions for future research on self-disorders, their nosological and diagnostic implications, and consider their potential value in psychotherapy for schizophrenia.

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