Psychopathology of depressions and mania: symptoms, phenomena and syndromes

T. Fuchs

Karl Jaspers Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry, Head of the Section Phenomenological Psychopathology, Psychiatric Department, University of Heidelberg


The paper gives a phenomenological account of depression and mania in terms of body, space, temporality and intersubjectivity. While the lived body is normally embedded into the world and mediates our relations to others, depression interrupts this embodied contact to the world. Local or general oppression condenses the fluid lived body to a solid, heavy “corporeal body”. Instead of expressing the self, the body is now turned into a barrier to all impulses directed to the environment. This impairs the patient’s interaction and affective attunement with others, resulting in a general sense of detachment, separation or even segregation. Depression is then further interpreted as the result of a desynchronisation, i.e. an uncoupling in the temporal relation between the patient and his social environment. This concept leads to some suggestions regarding a “resynchronisation therapy” for affective disorders. Conversely, mania is phenomenologically described as a centrifugal dispersion of the lived body, characterised by a general lightness, expansion and disinhibition. In the temporal dimension, the manic desynchronisation from the environment manifests itself in a lack of rhythmicity and constant acceleration of lived time.

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