Early psychopathological attempts to characterize the vulnerability to schizophrenia were based on the phenomenological method. From the beginning, phenomenologically-oriented psychopathologists have searched the basic vulnerability underlying schizophrenic phenomena in two main domains: depersonalization and derealisation/desocialization. Schizophrenic persons undergo a special kind of depersonalisation: the living body becomes a functioning body, a thing-like mechanism in which feelings, perceptions, and actions take place as if they happened in an outer space. They also endure a special kind of derealisation/de-socialization: the interpersonal scene becomes like a theatre stage, pervaded with a sense of unreality, on which the main actor is unaware of the plot, out of touch with the role he is acting and unable to make sense of the objects he encounters and of what the other people are doing. Many years later, the mainstream research paradigms employed to investigate the vulnerability concept in schizophrenic psychosis have included genetic studies, birth cohort studies, psychosis proneness, and clinical high risk. We will review these studies and conclude with an outline of future research directions focusing on three main features of the psychopathology of early schizophrenia: anomalies of the pre-reflexive self and of the social self (intersubjectivity), and existential re-orientation.
Keywords: Existential reorientation, high risk, intersubjectivity, phenomenology, schizophrenia, self, vulnerability, psychosis, prodromal symptoms, idionomia