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Fragmentation describes a state of the self that is the opposite of cohesion. It is a diagnostic sign.

This notion appeared in Heinz Kohut's 1968 article "The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders." A sign of the narcissistic personality, as compared with the neuroses, fragmentation triggers disintegration anxiety, a counterpart of castration anxiety. The fragmentation corresponding to the auto-erotic stage is total in psychosis, in contrast to the narcissistic personality, in which the self is cohesive. In narcissism, transient fragmentation is seen during analysis and during certain periods when the self is vulnerable, such as adolescence.

This notion was developed throughout Kohut's work, becoming one of the four fundamental concepts of self psychology set forth in "Remarks about the Formation of the Self" (1974). To Kohut, narcissistic pathology tends to be progressively reduced to variations in the state of the self, which is fragmented at the preoedipal and oedipal levels. Fragmentation of the self triggers an intensification of the drives, which are redefined as products of the disintegration of the self in the service of its restoration.

Fluctuations in the state of the self are important clinical data for diagnosis and treatment, but the drives become secondary to the self.

AgnÈs Oppenheimer

See also: Disintegration, products of; Schizophrenia; Self, the.


Kohut, Heinz (1968). The psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders. In The search for the self (Vol. 1). New York: International Universities Press.

. (1971).The analysis of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1974). Remarks about the formation of the self. In The search for the self (Vol. 2). New York: International Universities Press.

. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1984). How does analysis cure? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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fragmentation The creation of many small areas of memory, which may arise as a side effect when memory is allocated to and then released by processes. When a process requests a memory allocation, it is assigned the use of a contiguous area, often part of a larger area none of which is currently assigned to any process. The fragments of unallocated memory thus generated can in time become so small that they are not capable of meeting the requests of any process, and they then lie idle. Defragmentation is a process that, by consolidating memory which is in use, creates larger contiguous areas of unused memory, of a size that allows them to be allocated to meet requests by processes. See also external fragmentation, internal fragmentation.

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frag·men·ta·tion / ˌfragmənˈtāshən/ • n. the process or state of breaking or being broken into small or separate parts: the fragmentation of society into a collection of interest groups. ∎  Comput. the storing of a file in separate areas of memory scattered throughout a hard disk.

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fragmentation A method of asexual reproduction, occurring in some invertebrate animals, in which parts of the organism break off and subsequently differentiate and develop into new individuals. It occurs especially in certain cnidarians and annelids. In some, regeneration may occur before separation, producing chains of individuals budding from the parent.

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fragmentation Vegetative reproduction in which a plant structure fragments, each fragment growing into a new plant.