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Stengel, E. (1959). The Dynamics of Anxiety and Hysteria: By H. J. Eysenck. (London: Routledge, 1957. Pp. 311. 32 s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 40:358.

(1959). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40:358

The Dynamics of Anxiety and Hysteria: By H. J. Eysenck. (London: Routledge, 1957. Pp. 311. 32 s.)

Review by:
E. Stengel

The author attempts to use learning theory and Pavlovian principles for the elucidation of certain neurotic manifestations. He is all for mathematical precision, but he does not seem to care what he is precise about. The title is puzzling. It is not clear whether the author means neurotic anxiety, which is frequently present in hysterics, or anxiety neurosis without hysterical symptoms, or the anxiety of the obsessional, etc. The reader will search in vain for a clarification of these questions. It is one of the inconsistencies of Eysenck's work that while he is highly critical of the vagueness of the psychiatrist's diagnostic concepts, he treats them, when it suits him, as if they had the reality of a piece of muscle or of an inanimate object to be analysed in the laboratory. He never tells us what kind of hysterics he has experimented on, or what kind of neurotic anxiety he was dealing with. Presumably, the patients were diagnosed at the Maudsley Hospital, where diagnostic criteria and language vary greatly. Some years ago this reviewer characterized Eysenck's work as the scrupulous handling of material collected without sufficient scrupulosity. It now seems that this opinion was rather rash. He (the reviewer), was then greatly impressed by the apparent scientific rigour of the author's methods of which he (the reviewer) understood nothing. While this deplorable ignorance still persists, Eysenck's methods, especially their mathematical and statistical aspects, have been heavily criticized for being far from impeccable; according to expert critics the handling of the material has not been sufficiently scrupulous either. All this is very confusing and disappointing for the clinician, who tends to be too readily impressed by the symbols of pure science. The best he can do in such a case is to suspend judgement and to hope that some stimulus will nevertheless come from this work.

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