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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1992 Dec;26(4):532-45.

Phenomenology and the history of psychiatry.

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  • 1University of Sydney.


Phenomenology is a word much abused in psychiatry. It has come to mean the objective description of the symptoms and signs of psychiatric illness, a synonym for clinical psychopathology as opposed to that other psychopathology which derives from psychoanalytic theory. Thus it is sometimes stated that the phenomenology of a condition is remarkably consistent although its psychopathology is varied. In truth, phenomenology is a technical term in psychiatry with a specific meaning quite distinct from and in a way opposite to that of objective psychopathology. The inappropriate use of the word is unfortunate not only for semantic reasons but also because there is a real danger that the concept to which it refers will be forgotten.

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