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Open Access Open Badges Review

Nosologomania: DSM & Karl Jaspers' Critique of Kraepelin

S Nassir Ghaemi

Author Affiliations

Mood Disorders Program, Mood Disorders Clinic, Department of Psychiatry, Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, Box 1007, Boston, MA, 02111, USA

Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2009, 4:10  doi:10.1186/1747-5341-4-10

Published: 23 July 2009


Emil Kraepelin's nosology has been reinvented, for better or worse. In the United States, the rise of the neo-Kraepelinian nosology of DSM-III resuscitated Kraepelin's work but also differed from many of his ideas, especially his overtly biological ontology. This neo-Kraepelinian system has led to concerns regarding overdiagnosis of psychiatric syndromes ("nosologomania") and perhaps scientifically ill-founded psychopharmacological treatment for presumed neo-Kraepelinian syndromes. In the early 20th century, Karl Jaspers provided unique insights into Kraepelin's work, and Jaspers even proposed an alternate nosology which, though influenced by Kraepelin, also introduced the concept of ideal types. Jaspers' critique of Kraepelin may help us reformulate our current neo-Kraepelinian nosology for the better.