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Hurvich, M. (2000). Fear of Being Overwhelmed and Psychoanalytic: Theories of Anxiety. Psychoanal. Rev., 87(5):615-649.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Review, 87(5):615-649

Fear of Being Overwhelmed and Psychoanalytic: Theories of Anxiety

Marvin Hurvich

In the field of mental health today thlere is great interest in the areas of psychic trauma and anxiety disorders. Theoretical approaches and models abound (Danieli, 1998; Figley, 1978; Herman, 1992; Lifton & Olsen, 1976; van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 1996; Wilson, 1989). Important contributions to these topics have been made by psychoanalysts (Furst, 1995; Horowitz, 1978; Krystal, 1988; Rothstein, 1986; Shengold, 1989; Tekr, 1979; Ullman & Brothers, 1988). Virtually all of these sources begin with or refer to Freud's (1920, 1926a) concept of traumatic anxiety as the experience and fear of being overwhelmed.

Although there are hundreds of references to “overwhelming” from writers identified with all the major psychoanalytic schools, the concept and associated experiences have been less than optimally developed. Reasons for this are discussed herein. The intent of this communication is to review psychoanalytic conceptions of anxiety with a focus on traumatic overwhelming and its status in psychoanalytic theory. The emphasis is on a patient-reported and analyst-obserued phenomenon, a clinical manifestation.

I acknowledge the value of the distinction between fear and anxiety (A. Freud, 1977), but these ternis will be used interchangeably in this paper. Compton (1980a, p. 769) used the same strategy.

The centrality of anxiety in the neuroses (Freud, 1917) and in psychopathology has remained a key axiom of psychoanalysis.

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