Eugen Bleuler

Paul Eugen Bleuler ( 30 of April of 1857 – 15 of July of 1939 ) 1 was a psychiatrist and eugenicist 2 Swiss most notable for his contributions to the understanding of mental illness and for coining the term ” schizophrenia ” 3 4 ” schizoid ” , 5 ” autism ” 6 and what Sigmund Freud called the ” ambivalence term happily chosen by Bleuler.” 7


Bleuler was born in Zollikon , a large city near Zurich in Switzerland, Johann Rudolf Bleuler, a wealthy farmer, and Pauline Bleuler-Bleuler. He studied medicine in Zurich and after graduation in 1881 he worked as an assistant physician for Gottlieb Burckhardt at the Waldau Psychiatric Clinic in Bern . 8 After leaving this position in 1884 he spent a year undertaking medical study trips with Jean-Martin Charcot in Paris , Bernhard von Gudden in Munich and in London . 8 He later returned to Zurich to take up an internship at Burghölzli , a university hospital.

In 1886, Bleuler was appointed director of a psychiatry clinic in Rheinau, a hospital located in an old monastery on an island of the Rhine . Rheinau was out of phase at that time and Bleuler improved the conditions of the resident patients there.

Bleuler returned to Burghölzli in 1898, where he was appointed director.

Relation with Freud

Following his interest in hypnosis , especially in his “introspective” variant, 9 Bleuler became interested in the work of Sigmund Freud . He reviewed the joint work of Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud Studies on hysteria .

Like Freud, Bleuler believed that complex mental processes could be unconscious. He encouraged his Burghölzli staff to study unconscious and psychotic mental phenomena. Influenced by Bleuler, Carl Gustav Jung ( Psychogenesis of Mental Illnesses ), and Franz Riklin used word association tests to integrate Freud ‘s theory of repression with empirical psychological findings. As shown by a series of letters (published in English in 2003), Bleuler made a self – analysis with Freud, from 1905. 10

He found the Freudian movement too dogmatic and resigned from the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1911, writing to Freud that “this ‘all or nothing’ is in my opinion necessary in religious communities and useful for political parties … but for science I consider it harmful”. 11 Bleuler remained interested in Freud’s work, citing him favorably, for example, in his frequently reprinted Treatise on Psychiatry (1916). He also supported Freud’s candidacy for the Nobel Prize in the 1920s. 12

Early dementia, or the group of schizophrenias

Bleuler introduced the term “schizophrenia” worldwide in a conference on April 24, 1908 in Berlin. However, perhaps as early as 1907, he and his colleagues had been using the term in Zurich to replace the “Dementia Praecox” concept of Emil Kraepelin . He reviewed and expanded his concept of schizophrenia in his seminal 1911 study of Dementia Praecox, or Gruppe der Schizophrenien ( Early Dementia, or the Schizophrenia Group ).

Like Kraepelin, he argued that early dementia, or “schizophrenia,” was fundamentally a process of physical illness characterized by exacerbations and remissions. No one had ever been completely “cured” of schizophrenia, there was always some kind of lasting cognitive weakness or defect that manifested itself in behavior.

Unlike Kraepelin, he believed that the overall prognosis was not uniformly bleak, “dementia” was a secondary symptom not directly caused by the underlying biological process (three other “fundamental symptoms” were deficits in associations, affectivity, and ambivalence ) And that the biological disease was much more frequent in the population due to its “simple” and especially “latent” forms.

Bleuler wrote in 1911:

When the disease process breaks, it is more correct, in my opinion, to speak in terms of deteriorating attacks, rather than recurrence. Of course, the term recurrence is more comforting for a patient and his family than the notion of progressively deteriorating attacks. ” 13

The forced eugenics sterilization of people diagnosed with (and seen as predisposed to) schizophrenia was advocated by Bleuler. 14 He believed that racial deterioration would be the result of the propagation of mental and physical cripples, expressed in his Treatise on Psychiatry : 15

El agobiado con mayor severidad no debe propagarse… Si no hacemos nada respecto de la capacidad de propagación de los lisiados mentales y físicos, y las poblaciones saludables tienen que limitar el número de sus hijos ya que tiene que hacerse mucho por el mantenimiento de otros, si la selección natural es generalmente suprimida, entonces a no ser que consigamos nuevas medidas nuestra raza se deteriorará rápidamente.

He believed that the central characteristics of the disease were the product of a process of dissociation between the intellectual and emotional functions of personality. 16 Early discharge from hospital was encouraged in a community setting to avoid institutionalization . 17

Other contributions

Bleuler also explored the concept of moral idiocy 18 and the relationship between neurosis and alcoholism . 19

He followed Freud into seeing sexuality as a powerful influence on anxiety , 20 he meditated on the origins of guilt, and studied the process of what he called transposition (the affective shift from love to hatred, for example). twenty-one

Bleuler was known for his clinical observation and his willingness to let the symptoms speak for themselves as well as for his skilful expository writings. 22


Some publications

  • Die schizophrenen Geistesstörungen im Lichte langjähriger Kranken- und Familiengeschichten. Thieme, 1908; NA: Thiem, Stuttgart 1972, 673 p. ISBN 3-13-470701-2 .
  • Dementia praecox oder Gruppe der Schizophrenien , Deuticke, Leipzig / Vienna 1911; Neuausgabe mit einem Vorwort von Bernhard Küchenhoff, Psychosozialverlag, Gießen 2014, ISBN 978-3-89806-616-7 .
  • Lehrbuch der Psychiatrie. Springer, Berlin 1916; 13th ed. Springer, Berlin 1975, ISBN 978-3-540-07217-1 .
  • Beiträge zur Schizophrenielehre der Zürcher Psychiatrischen Universitätsklinik Burghölzli (1902-1971): einleitende Übersicht und gekürzter Nachdruck von Veröffentlichungen . Ed. Manfred Bleuler. Published Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1979, 358 p. ISBN 3534067614 , ISBN 9783534067619
  • Naturgeschichte der Seele und ihres Bewußtwerdens. Eine Elementarpsychologie. Springer, Berlin 1921; Neudruck: Verlag Classic Ed. 2010, ISBN 978-3-86932-030-4 .
  • Das autistisch-undisziplinierte Denken in der Medizin und seine Überwindung 1919; 5. Neudruck: Springer, Berlin 1985, ISBN 978-3-540-03468-1 . With Manfred Bleuler. Illustrated Springer-Verlag, 2013, 169 p. ISBN 3662265176 , ISBN 9783662265178


  • Sieben Briefe von Eugen Bleuler an Sigmund Freud. In: Lydia Marinelli, Andreas Mayer: Träume nach Freud. Die “Traumdeutung” und die Geschichte der psychoanalytischen Bewegung. 3rd ed. Turia + Kant, Vienna 2011, p. 144-159 , ISBN 978-3-85132-630-7 .
  • Sigmund Freud, Eugen Bleuler: “Ich bin zuversichtlich, wir erobern bald die Psychiatrie”. Briefwechsel 1904-1937 . Ed. By Michael Schröter. Schwabe, Basel 2012, ISBN 978-3-7965-2857-6 .


  1. Back to top↑ Eugen Bleuler. URL: . Accessed on: May 2, 2007.
  2. Back to top↑
  3. Back to top↑ Berrios, GE (2011). Eugen Bleuler’s Place in the History of Psychiatry. Schizophrenia Bulletin 37 (6): 1095-1098. doi :10.1093 / schbul / sbr132 .
  4. Back to top↑ Yuhas, Daisy. “Throughout History, Defining Schizophrenia Has Remained a Challenge .” Scientific American Mind (March 2013) . Accessed March 2, 2013 .
  5. Back to top↑ Details recorded by Salman Akhtar in Schizoid Personality Disorder: A Synthesis of Developmental, Dynamic, and Descriptive Features. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 41, 499-518
  6. Back to top↑ Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989) p. 198
  7. Back to top↑ Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) p. 118
  8. ↑ Jump to:a b Dalzell, Thomas G. (2011). Freud’s Schreber Between Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis On Subjective Disposition to Psychosis. . London: Karnac Books. P. 201. ISBN  978-1-85575-883-4 .
  9. Back to top↑ Mayer, Andreas (2001). “Introspective hypnotism and Freud’s self-analysis: procedures of self-observation in clinical practice” . Revue d’Histoire des Sciences Humaines 5 (2): 171-96. doi : 10.3917 / rhsh.005.0171 .
  10. Back to top↑ Marinelli, L, Mayer, A. (2003). Dreaming By the Book. Freud’s ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ and the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement . The Other Press. Pp. 159-76.
  11. Back to top↑ Quoted in Gay, p. 215
  12. Back to top↑ Gay, p. 456 and p. 486
  13. Back to top↑ Noll, American Madness , pags. 236-242
  14. Back to top↑ Joseph, Jay (2004). The Gene Illusion: Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope . Algora Publishing. P. 160. ISBN  0875863442 .
  15. Back to top↑ Bleuler E. (1924). Textbook of Psychiatry . New York: Macmillan. P. 214. See: Read J, Masson J (2004). ” Genetics, eugenics and mass murder .” In Read J, Mosher RL, Bentall RP (eds.). Models of Madness: Psychological, Social and Biological Approaches to Schizophrenia . Hove, East Sussex: Brunner-Routledge. P. 36. ISBN  1583919058 .
  16. Back to top↑ R. Gregory, The Oxford Companion to the Mind (1987) p. 697
  17. Back to top↑ Richard Warner, Recovering from Schizophrenia (2004) p. 146
  18. Back to top↑ Eugene Bleuler
  19. Back to top↑ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 379 and 599
  20. Back to top↑ Gay, p. 486
  21. Back to top↑ Sigmund Freud, On Psychopathology (PFL 10) p. 181 and 203
  22. Back to top↑ LL Hvens / SN Ghaemi, Psychiatric Movements (2004) p. 334 and 353