Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault

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Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault
Born July 2, 1872
Bourges, France
Died November 17, 1934
Malakoff, France
Nationality France
Occupation psychiatry
Known for de Clérambault's syndrome, erotomania

Gaëtan Henri Alfred Edouard Léon Marie Gatian de Clérambault (July 2, 1872 – November 17, 1934) was a French psychiatrist.


De Clérambault gained his thesis in 1899, later becoming an assistant physician at the special infirmary for the insane, Prefecture de Police (1905). From 1920 he was head of this institution.

Apart from his psychiatric studies, he was an acclaimed painter and wrote on the costumes of various native tribes. He was also a professional photographer, being known for a large quantity of photographs taken in Morocco of its populace. These photos were later placed in the Musée de l'Homme, and in 1990 exhibited at the Pompidou Center in Paris. For a period of time Clérambault conducted classes at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.

For his actions during World War I, de Clérambault was awarded with a cross of the Légion d'Honneur as well as the Croix de guerre. He committed suicide by firearm on November 17, 1934 in Malakoff, a commune southwest of Paris.[1] Famously, the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan attributed his 'entry into psychoanalysis' as largely due to the influence of de Clérambault, whom he regarded as his 'only master in psychiatry'.

Studies of psychotic symptomatology[edit]

He is remembered for his investigations of psychotic symptomatology, developing a theoretical system in which the understanding of fundamental characteristics of psychotic symptoms were linked with a description of alleged underlying neural processes. These neural processes would then be defined in terms of aberrant behaviors of neural connectivity. Clérambault provided a thorough taxonomy of psychotic symptoms based on subtle traits and nuances, which he arranged in a complex system of categories, subcategories, groups and subgroups, with the main categories being sensory, mental and motor phenomena. Ultimately, all the categorized symptoms could be defined by a single, common characteristic; their autonomous/automatic nature. The psychotic symptoms were then referred to as "automatisms".

Clérambault believed that automatisms can happen in the context of normal, or during subnormal thinking processes when the nervous system is challenged. Therefore, in the context of automatisms, the boundaries of psychotic and normal functionality are redefined.

Associated syndromes[edit]

  • de Clérambault's syndrome; (also called erotomania) a condition in which a person becomes deluded that a certain person of higher social status is in love with them. Described by de Clérambault in his publication of Les Psychoses Passionelles in 1921.
  • Kandinsky-Clérambault syndrome; a confusing clinical entity in which the patient believes his mind is being controlled by someone else or external forces. Named along with Russian physician Victor Khrisanfovich Kandinsky (1849–1889).

Publications (selection)[edit]

  • Mental automatisms. A conceptual journey into psychosis. Translation and commentaries [by Paul Hriso] on the works of Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault. [Bayonne, N.J.], Hermes Whispers Press, 2002. ISBN 0-9718923-4-2
  • Oeuvre psychiatrique. Paris, PUF, 1942 (2 vols.). Facs.ed.: Oeuvres psychiatriques. Paris, Frénésie, 1987, ISBN 2-906225-07-X
  • Contribution à l'étude de l'othématome (pathogénie, anatomie pathologique et traitement). Thèse Paris, 1899.
  • Passion érotique des étoffes chez la femme, Montreuil-sous-bois, Les empêcheurs de penser en rond, 1991.


  1. ^ Editions MF Revue Française de Psychiatrie et de Psychologie Médicale (September 2005)