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Litman, R.E. Tabachnick, N. (1967). Fatal One-Car Accidents. Psychoanal Q., 36:248-259.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:248-259

Fatal One-Car Accidents

Robert E. Litman, M.D. and Norman Tabachnick, M.D.

SUMMARY

A review of the literature reveals that psychoanalysts have approached the problem of accidents from the point of view of motivation, character structure, and precipitating ego state.

A group of fifteen men involved in fatal one-car accidents were studied. These were designated 'accident prone' and then matched with fifteen 'suicide prone' men who had fatally shot themselves. The latter group tended to be depressive, dependent, passive, immobilized, constricted, with basic fantasies of losing love or the love object. In striking contrast, the 'accident prone' men were active, counterphobic, counterdepressive, impulsive, quick, decisive, independent, adventurous, rebellious, with a strong need to prove themselves invulnerable. At the time of the accident many were in a transition phase and under increased pressure of added responsibilities.

We are also studying patients who have been in near-fatal car accidents. Deserving additional study are the following elements of the accident prone pattern: 1, transient personality reaction rather than permanent character traits; 2, the 'transition phase' to greater responsibilities in the life of the individual; 3, counterphobic and counterdepressive behavior; 4, the coexisting, unsynthesized, passive and active ego states; 5, the failure of essential self-preservative and integrative ego functions; 6, the relationship of self to automobile in terms of mental representations.

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