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We speak of counterphobic objects or phenomena when the person seeks out one or more external objects or phenomena, whether consciously or unconsciously, to escape from the manifestations of anxiety linked to his or her phobias.

The specificity of the counterphobic phenomenon appears to be linked not to the nature of the object used, but rather to the function that object assumes within the person's psychic economy. In the phobic situation, anxiety is focused on an "external object" (which may be an object, a person, or a situation). In these conditions, the counterphobic object is that object whose link or relationship to the phobic object is sufficiently well established within the person's psychic economy that its presence can neutralize the anxiety associated with the phobic object.

Given the extreme heterogeneity of phobic phenomena, this perspective means that we need not attempt to make a clear distinction between the counterphobic object and the various types of objects described in other contexts that enable the person to escape from manifestations of anxiety (psychotic object, transitional object, fetish object, etc.).

Francis Drossart

See also: Claustrophobia; "Lines of Advance in Psycho Analytic Therapy"; Neurotic defenses; Object; Phobia of commiting impulsive acts; Phobias in children; Phobic neurosis; Prepsychosis; Symptom-formation.


Diatkine, René, andÉric Valentin. Les phobies de l'enfant et quelques autres formes d'anxiété infantile. In Nouveau Traité de psychiatrie de l 'enfant et de l 'adolescent. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1985.

Freud, Sigmund (1909). Some general remarks on hysterical attacks. SE, 9: 229-234.

Freud, Sigmund (1928). Fetishism. SE 21: 147-157.

Geissmann, Claudine and Pierre. L 'Enfant et sa Psychose. Paris: Dunod, 1984.

Winnicott, Donald W. (1953). Transitional objects and transitional phenomena, a study of the first not-me possession. Coll. papers, through paediatrics to psycho-analysis (pp. 229-242). (Reprinted from International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34 (1951), 89-97.)