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Smadja, C. (2011). Psychoanalytic Psychosomatics. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 92(1):221-230.

(2011). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 92(1):221-230

Psychoanalytic Psychosomatics

Claude Smadja


Psychosomatics, or the treatment of psychosomatic illness, offers a new approach to the ill person, and for that reason belongs to the history of medicine. Right from the beginning, there have been several conceptual currents contributing to the growth of medicine, among which the life of the mind has had a more or less significant place. The term ‘psychosomatic’ first appeared in the second half of the 19th century. Its originator is said to be a German psychiatrist called Heinroth. The aim of the new current of medicine designated by the term was to introduce factors of a psychic nature into the organicistic and experimental current of 19th century medicine, in order to account for the causality and aetiopathogenesis of certain illnesses. This new and global approach to the ill person still has a place in medical practice, and constitutes one of its currents. However, its deployment has come up against the development of the biological notions and discoveries which continue to organize, more than ever, the foundations of Western medicine.

Freud's invention of psychoanalysis opened up a new avenue of approach to those with somatic illnesses, and several psychoanalysts have used it in their clinical observations and their psychoanalytic treatments. Thus a new current has developed in psychosomatics, psychoanalytic in origin, in contrast to the strictly medical current. The latter begins with the idea of illness and proceeds to look for all the aetiological factors, both biological factors and those of psychic origin. Psychoanalytic psychosomatics, on the other hand, starts with the ill person and his or her psychic functioning, in order to understand the conditions in which a somatic illness came to develop.

I The History of Psychoanalytic Psychosomatics

A The Freudian Basis of Psychosomatics

In the whole Freudian corpus, there is no piece of research specifically associated with psychosomatics. However, a number of studies and conceptual tools, developed by Freud in other areas of psychopathology, will be used as a basis for future elaboration by psychoanalysts interested in patients with somatic illnesses.


[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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