Reintroducing Consciousness in Psychopathology: Review of the Literature and Conceptual Framework

Gert Ouwersloot*, Jan Derksen, Gerrit Glas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Alterations in consciousness are among the most common transdiagnostic psychopathological symptoms. Therefore clinical practice would benefit from a clear conceptual framework that guides the recognition, comprehension, and treatment of consciousness disorders. However, contemporary psychopathology lacks such a framework. We describe how pathology of consciousness is currently being addressed in clinical psychology and psychiatry so far, and how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Edition (ICD-10) refer to this subject. A brief review of the literature on consciousness is then given. After describing psychological perspectives on consciousness and discussing theoretical issues involved in exploring consciousness, we offer a practical clinical working definition of consciousness and we illustrate its connections with a variety of diagnoses. Making use of Jean-Paul Sartre’s distinctions among: states, functions, qualities, and structure, provide a conceptual framework to understand consciousness, to refine diagnostics and to guide the development of therapeutic possibilities in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number586284
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberNovember
Early online date17 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • consciousness
  • dissociation
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • psychopathology
  • transdiagnostic


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