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Osman, M.P. (1968). A Psychoanalytic Study of Auto Accident Victims. Contemp. Psychoanal., 5(1):62-84.

(1968). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 5(1):62-84

A Psychoanalytic Study of Auto Accident Victims

Marvin P. Osman, M.D.


The research study of auto accident victims that has been reported

was based on intensive psychoanalytic interviewing of the subjects (and some relatives) over an extended period. Cases of male victims of one-car collisions who had been placed on the critical list of the Los Angeles County Hospital were assigned to a group of analytically trained psychiatrists on a non-selective basis (except for exclusion of cases in which obvious organic impairment of the subject or mechanical defect of his automobile were factors in producing the accident). A review of pertinent literature was presented, stressing the findings of Dunbar, Rawson, Alexander, Menninger, and Behan and Hirshfield. The various observations and hypotheses cited were based on eleven case reports meeting certain definite criteria for inclusion in the study.

In general our findings suggest that accident victims are individuals likely to be undergoing an imminent transition in their lives that imposes greater demands and responsibilities. It is postulated that the accident occurs as one incident in a psychic process involving susceptible individuals with impaired ego functioning. It would appear that these individuals are likely to have a certain type of personality configuration including the following: a predisposition to cherish their own psychic autonomy; a tendency to withdraw from conflicting life situations by utilizing denial, manic defense, and action-oriented behavior; and an affinity for counterphobic mechanisms to obtain spurious mastery and counter ego-dystonic temptations to rely upon others. Other pertinent findings were a high incidence of alcoholic intake prior to the accident; a tendency to respond to it with nonchalant acceptance as one manifestation of a general tendency to remain emotionally uninvolved; and a preoccupation with automobiles and racing.

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