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gain / gān/ • v. [tr.] 1. obtain or secure (something desired, favorable, or profitable): a process that has gained the confidence of the industry| their blend of acoustic folk pop gained them several chart hits. ∎  reach or arrive at (a desired destination): we gained the ridge. ∎  [intr.] (gain on) come closer to (a person or thing pursued): a huge bear gaining on him with every stride. ∎ archaic bring over to one's interest or views; win over: to gratify the queen and gain the court. 2. increase the amount or rate of (something, typically weight or speed): she had gradually gained weight since her wedding. ∎  [intr.] increase in value: stocks also gained for the third day in a row. ∎  [intr.] (gain in) improve or advance in some respect: canoeing is gaining in popularity. ∎  (of a clock or watch) become fast by (a specific amount of time): this atomic clock will neither gain nor lose a second in the next 1 million years. • n. an increase in wealth or resources: the mayor was accused of using municipal funds for personal gain. ∎  a thing that is achieved or acquired: a balance between water loss and water gain. ∎  the factor by which power or voltage is increased in an amplifier or other electronic device, usually expressed as a logarithm. DERIVATIVES: gain·a·ble adj. gain·er n.

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Primary and secondary gains correspond to the direct or indirect advantages that individuals gain from their illness. The primary gain is a constitutive element of the illness that is present in the very motive of the illness. The secondary gain is an addition to the primary gain and comes into play at a later stage. It consolidates the disorder.

The specific term "gain" in relation to an illness appeared in 1897 in a letter from Freud to Wilhelm Fleiss. Secondary gain is described for the first time in 1913 in On Beginning the Treatment : here the symptom has a secondary function (1913c). In 1916 in Lecture twenty-four of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis Freud clearly articulated the distinction between primary and secondary gain (1916-17a, [1915-17]), and again in 1923 in a footnote to the study of the case of Dora (1905e [1901]).

Primary gain subdivides into two parallel aspects. In the internal part, illness remains the most economic solution in cases of conflict, and this is the "flight into illness." The external part is linked to profitable arrangements occasioned in the individual's relational life. The secondary gain "helps the ego in its effort to incorporate the symptom." (1916-17a [1915-17]) It procures a satisfaction that is narcissistic or linked to self-preservation.

Dominique Blin

See also: Flight into illness; Narcissism


Freud, Sigmund. (1905e (1901]). Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria. SE, 7: 1-122.

. (1916-17a [1915-17]). Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. Parts I and II.SE, Part I, 15 ; Part II, 16.

. (1923b). The ego and the id. SE, 19 : 1-66.

. (1926e). The question of lay analysis. SE, 20: 177-250.

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gain sb. XV. — (O)F. gain m., gaigne fem. (mod. gagne), f. gaigner (mod. gagner
; hence gain vb. XVI) — OF. gaaigner, of Gmc. orig.; cf. OHG. weidenen graze, pasture, forage, etc., f. Gmc. *waiþō (OHG. weida fodder, pasture, hunting, OE. wāð, ON veiðr hunting). Hence gainful XVI.

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