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Glucksman, M.L. (2000). Affect Dysregulation: Defense or Deficit?. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 28(2):263-273.

(2000). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 28(2):263-273

Affect Dysregulation: Defense or Deficit?

Myron L. Glucksman, M.D.

The purpose of this article is to explore both psychodynamic and neurobiological phenomena in those individuals who have either a limited or total absence of affective experience and expression. Affect is a major component of the sense of self as well as a fundamental means of communication with others. Disorders of affect are found across virtually the entire psychopathological spectrum, including bipolar, personality, anxiety, depressive, and dissociative disorders. A definition of affect involves three interrelated process systems: (a) neurophysiological, including autonomic, neuroendocrine, and neurotransmitter activity; (b) motor or behavioral-expressive, including facial expressions, body movements, posture, tone of voice; and (c) cognitive-experiential, including ideational activity, subjective awareness, and verbal expression of feeling states (Taylor, Bagby, and Parker, 1997). The terms “feeling” and “emotion” are used interchangeably in this paper and refer to the behavioral-expressive and cognitive-experiential components of affect, although the neurobiological processes are implicit.

Affective phenomena have been the focus of psychoanalytic theory and practice since Freud (1894) first defined affect as a sum of excitationwhich possesses all the characteristics of a quantity spread over the memory-traces of ideas. Freud (1895) originally used the terms affect and anxiety interchangeably and believed that they resulted from inadequately discharged “somatic sexual excitation” or libido.

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