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Sperling, M. (1952). Animal Phobias in a Two-Year-Old Child. Psychoanal. St. Child, 7:115-125.

(1952). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 7:115-125

Animal Phobias in a Two-Year-Old Child

Melitta Sperling, M.D.


Linda was referred for treatment at the age of twenty-three months because of attacks of paroxysmal tachycardia for which no organic or any other cause could be found. The first attack occurred when she was seven months old. These attacks began with animal-like grunts which were different from any other cry. They occurred usually during the night and lasted for several hours. She often would be feverish during the attack and fall asleep toward the morning. During the attack she would assume a crouched position and fall asleep on her knees and elbows. Before an attack she would often complain of a bellyache. At nine months of age the attacks became more frequent (two or three times a week) whereupon the family doctor and the cardiologist advised hospitalization for the purpose of observation. Her pulse rate during these attacks was so rapid that it could not be counted. Although the child was very upset in the hospital, she did not have any attack there during her two-week stay. Because of the attacks a tonsillectomy was recommended and performed at the age of nineteen months. However, it did not affect the severity of the attacks nor the total behavior of the child. It rather increased the frequency of the attacks which occurred now every few days. She was hospitalized again at twenty-one months; this time in a different hospital where she remained for three weeks. Again she had no attacks during her stay in the hospital. The consulting psychiatrist advised analysis for the child and psychiatric guidance for the parents.

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