Descriptive phenomenology

Andrew Sims

in New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199696758
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191743221 | DOI:
Descriptive phenomenology

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Psychopathology is the systematic study of abnormal experience, cognition, and behaviour. It includes the explanatory psychopathologies, where there are assumed causative factors according to theoretical constructs, and descriptive psychopathology, which precisely describes and categorizes abnormal experiences as recounted by the patient and observed in his behaviour. Therefore the two components of descriptive psychopathology are the observation of behaviour and the empathic assessment of subjective experience. The latter is referred to by Jaspers as phenomenology, and implies that the patient is able to introspect and describe what these internal experiences are, and the doctor responds by recognizing and understanding this description. Descriptive phenomenology, as described here, is synonymous with pheno-menological psychopathology, and involves the observation and categorization of abnormal psychological events, the internal experiences of the patient, and consequent behaviour. The attempt is made to observe and understand this psychological event or phenomenon so that the observer can, as far as possible, know what the patient's experience must feel like.

Chapter.  14000 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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