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Bond, A.H. (1985). Virginia Woolf: Manic-Depressive Psychosis and Genius. An Illustration of Separation-Individuation Theory. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 13(2):191-210.

(1985). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 13(2):191-210

Virginia Woolf: Manic-Depressive Psychosis and Genius. An Illustration of Separation-Individuation Theory

Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.

Virginia Woolf, one of the greatest women writers who ever lived, was diagnosed as a manic depressive by physicians and family alike (Bell, 1972). She suffered at least four major psychotic breakdowns in her lifetime, and took her own life by drowning at the age of 59. This paper is an attempt to understand some of the sources, both of her genius and of her pathology, particularly in the light of Margaret Mahler's theory of separation-individuation, and to reopen that dark and insufficiently explored territory, the disease of manic depression.

The manic polarity of the disease of manic depression has been relatively neglected in the annals of psychiatric literature, as compared with the volumes published on depression. This phenomenon may well be due to the realities of dealing with manic patients, those troublemakers who are more demanding of the therapist's time, more disruptive to society, and perhaps more difficult to treat than any other diagnostic category. Research in this area in recent years has been largely biochemical (Post, 1980; Fieve, 1975) and genetic (Fieve et al., 1973; Rosenthal, 1970; Gershon, 1977; and Winokur, 1967). Psychoanalytically, work seems to have stopped in the ‘50's, and the little that was done, with a few exceptions (Freud, 1917, 1921; Jacobson, 1953; and Lewin, 1950) deals mainly with fixations of psychosexual development. Freud himself, unbelievably, deals significantly with mania only in two short references (1917, 1921), and mania is not even listed in the Abstracts of the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (1973).

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