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Lane, R.C. Hull, J.W. Foehrenbach, L.M. (1991). The Addiction to Negativity. Psychoanal. Rev., 78(3):391-410.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Review, 78(3):391-410

The Addiction to Negativity

Robert C. Lane, Ph.D., James W. Hull, Ph.D. and Leonore M. Foehrenbach

Much has been written about addiction to substances such as alcohol, drugs, and food. We wish to draw attention to another form of addiction: that of patients becoming attached to and dependent on various forms of negative experience. This “addiction to negativity” manifests itself in uncontrollable, compulsive forms of negative behavior and destructive attitudes toward self and others. There is a recurrent need and craving for activities that, instead of eliminating unpleasure and inducing a state of euphoria, eliminate pleasure and induce a state of dysphoria. A psychological or emotional dependence develops that leads to a “need for unpleasure,” a need to change pleasure into unpleasure, or to see only the unpleasure in any situation or activity. In these individuals pleasure seems to induce a disturbance in psychological homeostasis, with the disequilibrium persisting until a state of unpleasure is again induced.

Joseph (1982) has described this type of patient as having an addiction to “near-death”:

It dominates these patient's lives; for long periods it dominates the way they bring material to the analysis and the type of relationship they establish with the analysis; it dominates their internal relationships, their so-called thinking, and the way they communicate with themselves…. The pull toward despair and death in such patients is not, as I have said, a longing for peace and freedom from effort….

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