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Freud, S. (1935). Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Psychoanal Q., 4:616-625.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:616-625

Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety

Sigmund Freud

Our verbal usage permits us, in describing pathological phenomena, to distinguish between inhibitions and symptoms, although without attaching very much importance to the distinction. If we did not encounter cases of which we are forced to say that they exhibit only inhibitions, without any symptoms, and if we did not wish to know the reason for this, we should scarcely think it worth while to demarcate the concepts "inhibition" and "symptom".

The two concepts are not rooted in the same soil. Inhibition relates specifically to function and does not necessarily denote something pathological; a normal restriction or reduction of a function may also be termed an inhibition of it. To speak of a symptom, on the other hand, is tantamount to indicating a morbid process. Thus an inhibition may also be a symptom. Our habits of speech are such, then, as cause us to speak of an inhibition when a simple reduction of function is present, of a symptom when it is a question of an unusual alteration of function or of a new modality thereof. In many cases it seems to be perfectly arbitrary whether one emphasizes the positive or the negative aspect of a pathological process, whether one terms its result a symptom or an inhibition. All this is of little real interest, however, and the way in which we have formulated our problem proves not to be a very fruitful one.

Since inhibition is by definition so intimately bound up with function, it is but a short step to the idea of investigating the various ego functions with reference to the forms in which disorder of these functions is manifested in the various neurotic affections. We select for this comparative study the following: the sexual function, eating, locomotion, and vocation.

a. The sexual function is subject to a great multiplicity of disturbances, the majority of which have the character of simple inhibitions. These are grouped together as psychic impotence.

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