Skip to main content

Psychotic Panic


In the psychotic part of the personality, according to Wilfred Bion, anxiety changes into psychotic panic. Earlier, Melanie Klein (1935) had put forward the view that the first anxieties are psychotic in content and that in the normal development of infants there is a combination of processes by which primitive anxieties of a psychotic nature are bound, worked through, and modified.

Bion investigated the nature of the processes by which anxiety is modified during the 1950s and 1960s. He saw projective identification as the means by which the infant communicates primitive anxieties and emotions to the mother, and her reverie, that is, her containment with alpha function, as the process that modifies her infant's anxieties. If there is a pathological matrix between infant and mother of an adverse endowment and adverse nurture so that the infant's primitive and violent emotions find no container, a primitive disaster is felt to have occurred in which the container has been destroyed and anxiety has turned into psychotic panic. A nameless dread, as Bion also calls psychotic panic, is returned to the infant which threatens to suffuse and annihilate the personality, and from then on development takes a divergent course.

Psychotic panic is the origin, the O, of the ensuing transformation in hallucinosis, rather than, as in the neurotic personality, transformation in thought. Defenses are adopted to avoid the experience of panic by the evacuation of ego functions capable of the experience, and there is an explosive projection of ego pieces, images, beta-elements, and objects, into a space that has no limits.

Edna O'Shaughnessy

See also: Hallucinosis.


Bion, Wilfred R. (1959). Attacks on linking, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40 (5-6), 308.

. (1962). Learning from experience. London: Heinemann; New York: Basic.

Klein, Melanie (1935). A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic-depressive states. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 16 (2), 145-174.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Psychotic Panic." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . 5 Aug. 2019 <>.

"Psychotic Panic." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . (August 5, 2019).

"Psychotic Panic." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved August 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.