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Muñoz, M.A. (2004). Psychic Trauma and Annihilation Anxiety Presenter: Marvin Hurvich, Ph.D. Discussant: Martha Sermier, R.N., C.S. Date: October 16, 2003. Am. J. Psychoanal., 64(2):209-210.

(2004). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 64(2):209-210

Scientific Meetings of the American Institute for Psychoanalysis

Psychic Trauma and Annihilation Anxiety Presenter: Marvin Hurvich, Ph.D. Discussant: Martha Sermier, R.N., C.S. Date: October 16, 2003

Michele A. Muñoz, Ph.D.

Marvin Hurvich has been studying and writing about the theoretical, clinical, and empirical aspects of annihilation anxiety, which he defines as fears about safety, survival, and self-preservation, for over ten years. Depending on a person's particular history of psychic trauma, annihilation anxiety can be clinically manifested as fears of being penetrated, merged, fragmented, overwhelmed, or destroyed. Annihilation anxieties are significantly present in a range of severe psychopathology, including borderline, narcissistic, psychotic, dissociative, phobic, panic, addictive, and sexual disorders.

Hurvich has integrated various psychoanalytic theories of trauma and anxiety to develop a model that includes 13 variables characterizing a continuum of maladaptive to adaptive responses that respectively correlate to terror or traumatic anxiety at one end and signal anxiety at the other end. They include the degree to which anxiety appears uncontrolled/controlled, disorganized/organized, somatisized/desomatisized, and desymbolized/symbolized, as well as the absence or presence of reflective awareness, affect tolerance, anger, regression, secondary anxiety, trust, assimilation of the experience, and arousal of previous disturbing memories and unconscious fantasies. The age at which traumatic experiences occurred significantly influences the response to anxiety: The younger the age of onset, the more maladaptive is the response.

Hurvich listed 14 propositions that constitute characteristics of annihilation anxiety. A few follow: annihilation anxieties constitute a basic danger and interlink in various ways, with the four basic dangers of loss of object, loss of love, loss of genital integrity, and loss of superego support; annihilation concerns may be encoded in concrete somatosensory, affective, presymbolic form. Refer to Hurvich's 2003 work for the complete list of propositions and a detailed description of each one.

Six subdimensions of annihilation anxiety were presented. The first one, fears of being overwhelmed, being unable to cope, and of losing control, can manifest itself in feeling suffocated, immobilized, or flooded; losing control of impulses or bodily functions; or losing one's mind.

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