Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Stupor: a conceptual history

G. E. Berriosa1 c1

a1 From Ribinson College, Cambridge


The concept of ‘stupor’ is subjected to historical analysis. Particular attention is given to the nineteenth-century, during which three evolutionary stages are identified. During the first stage stupor is considered as a simple state of non-responsiveness. The second stage recognizes that some stupors are accompanied by rich subjective experiences and separates them as ‘psychiatric stupors’. During the third stage some of its symptoms are reinterpreted as resulting from an interaction between patient and environment. A number of historical sources are reviewed in an attempt to illustrate the evolution of the concept and its association with cognate behavioural states.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr G. E. Berrios, Robinson College, Cambridge.