Neuro-Psychosis of Defense

views updated


The "neuro-psychosis of defense," a nosological category identified by Freud in 1894, covers neurotic and psychotic disorders characterized by conflict between affects and ideas: hysteria, obsessions, phobias, and hallucinatory psychoses. Two years later, the notion of the defenses became more central in Freud's theories (1896b).

In "The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence" (1894a), Freud reported on his "detailed study of a number of nervous patients suffering from phobias and obsessions" (p. 45). He viewed this study as a contribution to "the theory of hysteria, or rather a change in it, which appears to take into account an important characteristic that is common both to hysteria and to the neuroses I have just mentioned" (p. 45). He isolated the defense that is characteristic of hysteria and established possible connections between it and phobias and obsessions. Above all, the article was one of Freud's earliest discussions of the conflict between affects and ideas and of the consequences such conflict could have in the functioning of the ego.

In "Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence" (1896b), Freud returned to his discussion of the different forms of neurosis, emphasizing that his observations in the last two years had reinforced his view of "defence as the nuclear point in the psychical mechanism of the neuroses in question" (p. 162)a view he maintained in his subsequent writings.

At the time Freud wrote these articles, he had not yet entirely worked out his first theory of repression, so his discussion seem essentially descriptive.

Elsa Schmid-Kitsikis

See also: Actual; Actual neurosis/defense neurosis; Defense; "Heredity and the Aetiology of the Neuroses"; Psychic causality.


Freud, Sigmund. (1894a). The neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 41-61.

. (1896b). Further remarks on the neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 157-185.