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Monsour, K.J. (1960). Asthma and the Fear of Death. Psychoanal Q., 29:56-71.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:56-71

Asthma and the Fear of Death

Karem J. Monsour, M.D.


The clinical syndrome of asthma appears to have its roots in a special kind of relationship within the mother-child symbiosis. This relationship has special significance in the development of asthma due to the manner in which the mother responds to and manages the crying behavior of the child. The child senses the mother's anxious possessiveness as a threat to its existence (ego identity). Asthma may alternate with or be succeeded by an anxiety neurosis, the latent phobia being the fear of death. The child's anxiety being intensified by the mother's neurosis, its respiratory functioning is taxed beyond physiological limits. Because the relationship to the mother leads to intense erotization of respiratory function, asthma exemplifies an abortive effort to achieve sexual gratification through an inappropriate organ system. Clinical instances are presented to illustrate the conclusions.

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