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Salzman, L. (1965). Obsessions and Phobias. Contemp. Psychoanal., 2(1):1-25.

(1965). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 2(1):1-25

Obsessions and Phobias

Leon Salzman, M.D.

PHOBIAS HAVE HAD A PLACE in psychiatric and psychoanalytic literature for a long time. In 1895 Freud had already written a paper on "Obsessions and Phobias: Their Psychical Mechanism and Their Aetiology." 7 In this paper he distinguished the two by indicating that in phobias the emotional state is always one of morbid anxiety, while in the obsessions, other emotional states such as doubt, anger, etc., may occur in the same capacity as does anxiety in the phobias. Freud emphasized that the origin of the phobias was anxiety and that the source was derived from the symbols of unconscious fantasies and conflicts. He said: "In conclusion I will state that combinations of a phobia and an obsession proper may co-exist and that indeed this is a very frequent occurrence [7, p. 82]."

The function of the phobias as an avoidance technique was long understood, and phobias were consistently classified either in the category of the anxiety neuroses or under the rubric of hysteria. Freud described them as hysterical in origin and in the famous study of Hans, 7a who had a phobia at five years of age, he emphasized that phobias belonged with the anxiety neuroses, since there was a similarity between the psychological structure of phobias and hysteria.

The literature on the etiology and therapy of the phobias is very extensive. Freud's original formulation was that the phobia is an attempt to deal with anxiety by substitution and by displacement of anxieties which are alien to the ego.

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