First name:
20th century
21st century
Field of expertise:
Place of birth:
Innsbruck (AUT)
* 03.10.1936
† 25.11.2012
Biography print

Swiss psychiatrist and eminent psychopathologist.


Christian Scharfetter (1936-2012) was born and raised in Innsbruck, Austria, where he also gained his degree in medicine. He moved to Zurich, Switzerland, in 1963, to work at a neurosurgical hospital. While working there, he attended colloquia at the local university’s psychiatric clinic where he completed his residency in 1967. He obtained the formal qualification for a professorship (Habilitation) in 1972, and was appointed assistant professor the following year. He never married.


Scharfetter dedicated a major part of his scientific life to research in clinical psychopathology, with a special focus on schizophrenia. His best-known work is General Psychopathology: An Introduction (1980; German original published in 1976). Initially designed as a series of lectures for academic courses, it soon became an internationally recognized standard reference on psychopathology, the impact of which is still felt today.


Scharfetter particularly focused on schizophrenic “ego disorders” (1983) but also published numerous works on intercultural and comparative psychiatry, consciousness research, and the history of psychiatry. With his biography of the Zurich psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (2006) or his critical and self-reflexive review of psychiatric practice titled Was weiß der Psychiater vom Mensch (What does the psychiatrist know about the human being?; 2000), he also offered an interesting perspective on the profession’s history and ethics.


When diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma with a fatal prognosis, Christian Scharfetter decided to end his life. In 2014, his twin brother Florian Scharfetter published a personal account of his brother’s assisted suicide in November 2012.



Böker, H. (2012): Interview, Prof. Dr. med. Christian Scharfetter. In: Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, Psychologie und Psychotherapie 60, (1), pp. 77-80.

Hoff, P., B. Küchenhoff (2012): Christian Scharfetter, 1936 - 2012. In: Schweizer Archiv für Neurologie und Psychiatrie 163, (8), p. 264.       

Scharfetter, C. (1976): Allgemeine Psychopathologie. Eine Einführung (5th revised edition). Stuttgart: Thieme 2002.

Scharfetter, C. (1980): General psychopathology. An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scharfetter, C. (1983): Schizophrene Menschen. Diagnostik, Psychopathologie, Forschungsansätze. Weinheim: Beltz.

Scharfetter, C. (2000): Was weiß der Psychiater vom Menschen? Unterwegs in der Psychiatrie. Menschenbild, Krankheitsbegriff und Therapieverständnis. 2. Aufl. Sternenfels: Verlag Wissenschaft & Praxis.

Scharfetter, C. (2006): Eugen Bleuler (1857 - 1939). Polyphrenie und Schizophrenie. Zürich: vdf Hochschulverlag.

Scharfetter, C. (2012): Scheitern. In der Sicht auf Psychopathologie und Therapie. Sternenfels: Verlag Wissenschaft & Praxis.

Scharfetter, F. (2014): Persönliche Worte zu Krankheit und Sterben von Christian Scharfetter. In: Schweizer Archiv für Neurologie und Psychiatrie 165, (2), pp. 64-68.


Julian Schwarz


Referencing format
Julian Schwarz (2015): Scharfetter, Christian.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:21.06.2024)