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August 1993

Alfred Adler's Description of the Case of Vaslav Nijinsky in Light of Current Diagnostic Standards

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychology University of Vermont Burlington, VT 05405

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993;50(8):669. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820200087010

At the end of a presentation by Alfred Adler1 of the case of Vaslav Nijinsky, the famous dancer who became schizophrenic, and its discussion by me,2 the editor of the Archives raised the question "what the diagnosis would be according to current diagnostic standards," meaning DSM-III.

This question has now been answered in the new, comprehensive, and thoroughly researched biography of Nijinsky by Peter Ostwald.3 In an appendix, Joseph H. Stephens and Ostwald4 arrive at the final diagnosis according to DSM-III of "schizoaffective disorder in a narcissistic personality." They find that Nijinsky exhibited at one time or another all the symptoms required for the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and met every one of the five criteria of narcissistic personality.

Encouraged by this, I examined Adler's description of the case with reference to the above diagnosis. Looking first at the results with regard to narcissistic personality, I

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