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Rangell, L. (1955). On the Psychoanalytic Theory of Anxiety—A Statement of a Unitary Theory. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 3:389-414.

(1955). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 3:389-414

On the Psychoanalytic Theory of Anxiety—A Statement of a Unitary Theory

Leo Rangell, M.D.

To the psychiatric clinician, anxiety is the raison d'etre. The total network of its tortuous course, its origins, direct manifestations, its equivalents, derivatives, and consequences (defenses, symptoms), constitute the major background, and indeed the foreground of the clinician's field of operation. This paper is thus focused on a central, albeit a diffuse phenomenon. It will have proven a justified effort, even without the expectation of any new development of theory, if it serves merely to refresh and recapitulate, and to bring a subject as nuclear as this periodically up to date.

The statement or warning that if one starts at any point of the psychoanalytic framework one can proceed to touch on every other part is particularly applicable to a study of anxiety. The challenge it poses, besides that of precise understanding, is clearly one of selection and condensation. This presentation will attempt to serve as a bridge between the historical developments of the past (51), and the experimental findings and paths for the future, which are to follow (32). The areas to be examined will include: (a) an appraisal of the present theoretical status of anxiety and its place in psychoanalytic metapsychology, the divergences of opinion which exist, and a synthesis of these into a unitary theory; (b) the integration of the concept of anxiety into the psychoanalytic theory of affects and into the most recent developments in ego psychology; (c) some remarks on the role of anxiety in the clinical therapeutic process.

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