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Elementary symptom

By Thomas A. Ban

An “elementary symptom” (Elementarsymptom) is a psychopathological symptom, from which the other symptoms of a mental syndrome are derived (Krahl 2000). The concept was first presented by Carl Wernicke on July 19, 1892, in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocklaw, Poland), in a discussion at the 59th meeting of the East German neurologists (Nervenarzte),  published, in 1893, in the Allgemeine  Zeitschrift fur Psychiatrie und psychisch-gerichtlich Medizin  (Wernicke 1893). The term, itself, was introduced about a year later, in 1894, at the 61st meeting of the same group (Wernicke 1895). The origin of the concept of “elementary symptom” is in conceptualization of clinical observations. The use of “elementary symptoms”, as a “nosological principle” for the identification of mental diseases dates back to Wernicke’s description and separaton of Anxiety-Psychosis from other psychoses, in 1894 (Wernicke 1895).

 

References:

 

Krahl A. Carl Wernicke’s elementary symptom (Elementarsymptom). In: Franzek E, Ungvari GS, Ruther E, Beckmann H, editors. Progress in Differentiated Psychopathology. Wurzburg: International Wernicke-Kleist-Leonhard Society; 2000, pp. 43-8.

 

Wernicke C. Diskussionsbeitrag auf dem 59. Treffen des Vereins ostdeutscher Irrenarzte.  Leubus, 19. Juni 1892. Allgemeine Zeitschrift fur Psychiatrie und psychisch-gerichtliche Medizin 1893: 486-9.

 

Wernicke C. Bemerkungen anlaslich  des 62. Treffen des Vereins ostdeutscher Irrenarzte.  Sorau, 25. Juni 1893. Allgemeine Zeitschrift fur Psychiatrie und psychisch-gerichtliche Medizin 1895a: 206.

 

Wernicke C. Fallbeschreibungen anlaslich des 66.  Treffen des Vereins ostdeutscher Irrenarzte.  Breslau. 24. November 1894. Allgemeine Zeitschrift fur Psychiatrie und psychisch-gerichtliche Medizin 1895b: 1016-21.

 

Thomas A. Ban

September 17, 2015