How Psychoanalysis Was Born And The Curious Case of Anna O

The psychoanalysis had her first patient in an Austrian Jewish-feminist woman named Bertha Pappenheim (1859-1936) , better known as Anna O ., Pseudonym given by psychologist and physiologist Austrian Josef Breuer who published the study of his case in the book  “Studies on hysteria” with Sigmund Freud which allowed them to establish the birth of what we now call psychotherapy .

Birth of Psychoanalysis and The Case of Anna O.

Jewish feminist Bertha Pappenheim Austrian national who achieved fame as a defender and promotive of the rights of women and children, however best known as the star of the Curious Case of Anna O . and for having been, at 21 years of age, the number one patient treated with the cathartic method germ of the future psychoanalytic method created by Joseph Breuer.

Anna’s father contracted tuberculosis in 1880, she was under his care while he was in bed. From this disease that led to his death, Anna O. began to suffer from a significant cough that had no organic explanation and other symptoms that had no relationship or connection, it was then that she began to consult Josef Breuer for related symptoms with his illness.

Freud observed that, prior to her “hysteria,” Anna had lived a healthy life, was a highly intelligent woman with an active and dreamy imagination. However, her dedication to caring for her ailing father began to take its toll on her to the point where Anna also became ill.

Through the progress of his clinical case, it is clearly observed how Breuer improvises and modifies the treatment according to the strange and rambling symptomatic picture of his patient. It could be said then that Breuer did not apply the cathartic method with Anna O. but rather improvised it little by little by having to adapt to the behavior, symptoms, observations and comments  of the young patient.

Breuer observed that while Anna underwent radical personality changes accompanied by pictures of confusion, she muttered words or phrases to herself. This is how “free association” arose, where the patient is placed in a state of physical and mental relaxation, so Anna concentrated on letting the thoughts flow, saying anything that might come to mind.

It should be noted that it was Anna O. herself who described the healing procedure as chimney sweeping or speech cure that despite the trance states that the patient had, she could talk about her daytime fantasies and other experiences, feeling better later, it was how psychoanalysis would end up being called.

At the end of the cathartic treatment, she continued to suffer from different psychological and organic symptoms for which she was admitted to a psychiatric center from which once she recovered she consecrated herself as a faithful feminist and dedicated herself to the fight for social rights. She ran an orphanage in Frankfurt am Main and founded the Jüdischer Frauenbund (Jewish women’s league).

Symptoms of Anna O.

The symptoms shown by Anna O. herself during the study process were very varied, from a nervous cough to various behavioral symptoms.

  1. Partial paralysis in different parts of the body ( right arm and leg).
  2. Involuntary eye movements, vision problems, and a strong squint in December 1881.
  3. Hydrophobia ( aversion to food and water). Which left her for days even without being able to drink.
  4. Lethargy ( In the afternoons she became sleepy and then presented an opposite state of great excitability). Between December 11, 1881 and April 1 of the following year, she remained bedridden.
  5. Paraphasia ( In the middle of a sentence she would repeat the last word and take pauses before finishing it)  or serious impairment in the language that sometimes led her to lose the ability to speak or even to forget her native language, German, since it was polyglot began to replace it with others that he did not master, such as French or English .

Stages of Ana O.

Latent incubation (July 1880 to December 1880)

The disease and its symptoms begin to emerge Clearly.

Manifest Disease (December 1880 to June 1881)

The symptoms are at their clearest point, although in parallel Anna begins to show some recovery thanks to the treatment, it is interrupted in April 1881, when her sick father dies. This fact affected Anna seriously and on June 7, 1881, she began to show suicidal tendencies.

Intermittent Sleepwalking (April 1881 to December 1881)

Periodic sleepwalking coupled with apparently normal behavior.

Recovery (December 1881 to June 1882)

Breuer and Freud were certain that by reliving unconscious anxieties (hallucinations and traumatic experiences) and making them conscious, he was able to help Anna overcome related symptoms. Over time, his problems gradually ceased and he made his recovery.

The Anna O. Treatment placed so much emphasis on the impact of previous trauma and subconscious ideas on the mind that it led to the use of the “speech cure”, along with hypnosis and regression, to identify possible causes. of different mental illnesses.

Bertha Pappenheim fought for her recovery upon leaving Bellevue. In 1888 he published “Little stories for children” and in 1890 “At the antique dealer.”

In 1895 he was in charge of the Jewish orphanage in Frankfurt. She was certified as the first social worker in Germany, in 1899 she translated into German “Vindication of women’s rights.” Early in her recovery Bertha published “The Jewish Question in Galicia” under a male pseudonym until 1900, Paul Berthold.

In 1924 he published “El trabajo de Sísifo”, ​​in which he grouped old letters, publishing the notes he took after his visits to hospitals, nursing homes and brothels, stating that nothing justifies silence about injustices. Anna O. Dies on May 28, 1936.

Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Schlomo Freud (1856-1939) Born in Freiberg, great physician, neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis and its applications. The beginnings of this were based on hypnosis and its use was to treat patients who had serious mental disorders , which was replaced by the analysis of dreams and free association.

Residing in Paris, he shared his time with Charcot, a neurologist who studied the hypnotic phenomenon, and thus began his interest in hypnotic suggestion and the study of hysteria.

Freud begins to venture into an unexplored world of unconscious psychic activity . He met a doctor, Josef Breuer, and through him, the case of a Miss Anna O. For Freud it is clear that the problem did not consist of the investigation of conscious processes, but of unconscious ones.

In this way, Psychoanalysis was born as a descriptive and explanatory theoretical model of the mechanisms, processes and phenomena involved in the emotionally described day-to-day of the human being (unconscious meaning of words, acts, imaginary productions, dreams, fantasies and delusions of a person). individual), likewise, in the application as a direct treatment in hysterics, phobias and various psychic-mental ailments.

After being the protagonist of a true revolution in the psychology and thought of the time, psychoanalysis lost its unitary conformation, the non-verification of some of its theories and speculations having been repeatedly pointed out, however, it served as a basis for the development and proliferation from a large number of psychological theories and schools.

However, many of its dogmas and concepts would end up passing from specialized fields to everyday life, to largely configure the way in which we understand and perceive our own mind.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.