The existential crisis of nihilism in schizophrenia has been reported since the early days of psychiatry. Taking first-person accounts concerning nihilistic experiences of both the self and the world as vantage point, we aim to develop a dynamic existential model of the pathological development of existential nihilism. Since the phenomenology of such a crisis is intrinsically subjective, we especially take the immediate and pre-reflective first-person perspective's (FPP) experience (instead of objectified symptoms and diagnoses) of schizophrenia into consideration. The hereby developed existential model consists of 3 conceptualized stages that are nested into each other, which defines what we mean by existential. At the same time, the model intrinsically converges with the phenomenological concept of the self-world structure notable inside our existential framework. Regarding the 3 individual stages, we suggest that the onset or first stage of nihilistic pathogenesis is reflected by phenomenological solipsism, that is, a general disruption of the FPP experience. Paradigmatically, this initial disruption contains the well-known crisis of common sense in schizophrenia. The following second stage of epistemological solipsism negatively affects all possible perspectives of experience, that is, the first-, second-, and third-person perspectives of subjectivity. Therefore, within the second stage, solipsism expands from a disruption of immediate and pre-reflective experience (first stage) to a disruption of reflective experience and principal knowledge (second stage), as mirrored in abnormal epistemological limitations of principal knowledge. Finally, the experience of the annihilation of healthy self-consciousness into the ultimate collapse of the individual's existence defines the third stage. The schizophrenic individual consequently loses her/his vital experience since the intentional structure of consciousness including any sense of reality breaks down. Such a descriptive-interpretative existential model of nihilism in schizophrenia may ultimately serve as input for future psychopathological investigations of nihilism in general, including, for instance, its manifestation in depression.
- Existential model of nihilism
- Nihilism in schizophrenia
- Nihilistic delusions
- Phenomenological psychopathology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health