Neurosis is a type of a functional mental disorder in which the victim experiences distress. Disorders that are grouped under neurosis are referred to as anxiety neurosis disorders. Many forms of neurosis exist which include anxiety neurosis, obsessive-compulsive disorders, phobias, and hysteria. Anxiety neurosis is considered to be a form of psychological distress. The distress is usually manifest in the unconscious and is evident in physical and psychological aspects. Neurosis is closely associated with mental disorders and anxiety in particular. A neurosis is a special form of anxiety in that it is clinically treatable because it is linked to neurons.
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Clinical psychology is faced with the challenge of finding suitable curative mechanisms for anxiety neurosis because it has a clinical aspect that can prove to be difficult for psychoanalysts who may not necessarily be trained in clinical medicine. Anxiety neurosis has, therefore, become a major form of challenge, and its effects have led to the need for training of specialists and doctors of anxiety neurosis.
Sigmund Freud was born in Freiberg, Austria during the Napoleonic period but later migrated to England where he studied medicine and graduated. He is regarded as the founder of psychoanalytic theories and its subsequent psychoanalysis techniques and theories (Target &Fonagy, 2001). His theories mainly postulated that due to the influence of behavior and certain internal drives, internal developmental changes occurred in a person. Freud started doing his research on anxiety neurons after he was challenged by a case that involved damaged sexual abilities. According to Szasz (2007), before Freud discovered the “unconscious nature of the human sexual organs,” he had already noted that “Anxious expectation is the nuclear symptom of the neuroses” (Szasz, 2007).
Anxiety neurosis can be viewed in two possible perspectives. It can be viewed positively as a healthy function that reminds the patient or the subject on impending situations. It has negative consequences on the patient because it informs him of his innate problems. It also confronts the subject with the disturbing situations which eventually can deprive and prevent him from expressing the cause and reason for being in that state. The objective of this study is to expose Freud’s anxiety neurosis and to provide a comprehensive approach as to the causes, treatments, and symptoms of the anxiety neurosis. The study will investigate Freud’s theories to establish their relevance in the modern setting. The challenge that Freud’s anxiety neurosis faces today is related to the new forms in which anxiety neurosis manifests itself today.
Freud’s psychoanalytic theories of neurotic anxiety
The primary psychoanalytic theory of neurotic anxiety
Freud explained that the human ability to have his desires fulfilled could be made possible by the eventual increased scientific abilities that met human needs. He also argued that religion played a significant role in detaching people from reality and its consequences. This theory did not, however, explain concrete aspects of anxiety.
Freud’s later neurotic anxiety theory (1926)
Freud argues that the effects of the anxiety are not based on the repressing agent alone but from the whole process that causes the anxiety. Freud suggested that repression was the causative agent of anxiety. He admitted that he had earlier mistaken anxiety to have been the causative agent of repression. Here, he described anxiety as a form of signal that a person’s ego produced due to an impending danger making the subject to withdraw from or confront the danger. In this manner, repression was subdued. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory models were based on the subject’s personality, defense mechanisms and psychosexual development (Van der Kolk, 2004).
Mental life anxiety
Freud grouped mental life levels into conscious and unconscious. The unconscious level was however further divided to unconscious proper and preconscious. Freud suggested that these levels of mental challenges were used to determine a location and a process. The unconscious level was highly associated with anxiety.
The unconscious level
This level of mental life is composed of instincts, ambitions, and desires that human beings are not even aware of. They, however, motivate the speech, actions, and emotions of human beings. A person might be conscious, but he cannot be conscious of the mental processes that influence his behavior. Therefore the conscious aspect of the psychological processes in the brain of humans cannot be recognized by the mind (Crewes, 1998).
Freud explained that the unconscious revealed the reason that led to slips of the tongue and specific types of losses of memory and dreams. Unconscious processes tend to “mask” themselves as they enter the consciousness level to avoid censorship. The unconscious images move past the primary and final sensors to the conscious mind and are perceived as pleasant experiences. Childhood behaviors, such as aggression and sex are normally punished. The punishing and subsequent suppression cause anxiety, which in turn stimulates repression. Certain unconscious drives can appear and try to be conscious.
Divisions of the mind
In the 1920s, Freud demonstrated that the mind had three parts, and this assisted in explaining mental perceptions according to their purpose.
- dasEs, or the “it,” which when translated to English is “id.” Freud considered it as very primitive. It is completely unconscious.
- dasIch or the “I.” This was known as the ego. It contained conscious, preconscious and unconscious components. Anxiety is located in this division.
- dasUber-Ich or the “over-I,” This was known as the superego. It contained both the preconscious and unconscious components.
The ego as a cause of neurotic anxiety
This division is normally in contact with reality since it is the main communication source of an individual with the world. Therefore, it is the main part of a person’s personality. It is however governed by the reality principle but it can make decisions on the conscious, preconscious and unconscious levels. During the performance of mental and intellectual functions, the ego relates with the “id”, the superego and the external world which are all different and divergent forces. The ego thus becomes anxious and uses defense mechanisms such as regression to protect itself from the growing anxiety (Van der Kolk & Fisler, 2005).
Other triggers of anxiety neurosis
There are several activities that can trigger anxiety in an individual. Anxiety normally starts during periods of physical or psychological stress. These stressful situations include relationships’ wrangles, physical illnesses, severe misunderstandings, and work pressure, excessive consumption of alcohol and drug abuse, trauma, domestic violence, death of a close relative, loss of a job or sexual and physical abuse.
When people are under pressure and stress, they develop a tendency of quick and deep breathing. This manner of breathing can cause anxiety since it lowers the amount of carbon dioxide in the lungs, therefore, complicating a series of processes. The complicated processes then cause physical symptoms of anxiety. People under stress also tend to dwell on the pessimistic side of the situation. They tend to worry more than usual and have very unrealistic and negative thinking about situations. They misinterpret things and view them as negative and this causes anxiety. Modern technology has contributed a lot to the detection and consequent treatment of anxiety-related triggers. Technology is usually able to capture accurate symptoms, especially traumatic disorders.
If the basic desires of humans are not fulfilled, their driving forces would still keep on exerting pressure on humans and cause anxiety to them. Freud argued that anxiety was an unpleasant feeling that was subsequently followed by a physical sensation that warned the individual of any danger.
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Forms of anxiety neurosis
Individuals who experience panic disorders usually have intense and sudden anxiety. The nature of panic they exhibit is not related to the events that happen externally, and the individuals can be free from anxiety after experiencing panic attacks. Panics mostly occur normally in response to situations that are feared by individuals. The psychological symptoms of panic include fear of death, reality, and becoming mentally disturbed. Physical aspects of panic disorders comprise of chest pains, headaches, nausea, sweating, short breath, choking, dizziness, fast heart palpitation rates, trembling, and feelings of numbness.
Social phobia involves the fear of attracting attention or being at the center of it. It may also be the fear of being the subject of criticism. Individuals experiencing this disorder are usually in constant fear of misbehaving by doing something “silly” or by embarrassing themselves in public. The situations that might lead to social phobia include, giving a speech in a crowd, being the focus of attention, eating and writing in public, asking questions in a public forum, walking in front of other people and also meeting new people. These reactions lead to avoidance of social situations by the individual.
Individuals suffering from this disorder experience both psychological and physical anxiety often accompanied by panics. They experience this when they are in a different or unfamiliar environment. Agoraphobia also happens to individuals who have experienced panic before or to people who feel like it can be difficult to be helped when attacked by this form of anxiety. The individual experiencing agoraphobia, therefore, tries to avoid many situations part of which may be the day-to-day activities. In its extremity, agoraphobia makes the individual not to leave the house because he feels unsafe outside. The situations that trigger this anxiety include being alone, leaving home and traveling alone, especially in public places.
Generalized anxiety disorder
This type of anxiety is not related to any fear or panic. Generalized anxiety is ongoing anxiety characterized by symptoms of tension and excessive worry about normal activities and events within the external environment. It also includes constant worry of the future. The individual worries that certain things might go wrong now or in the future. This anxiety has very little or no symptoms, unlike social phobia and panic attacks.
Types of anxiety neurosis
Freud explains that there are three types of anxiety neurosis (Crewes, 2000).
This condition is characterized by unconscious worry or apprehension about a certain situation that may be dangerous. This anxiety arises from the ego’s dependency on the id. Neurotic anxiety is felt by the ego but its origin is from the id. This form of anxiety is expressed by an individual when in the presence of a higher authority than him like teachers, bosses, employers and any other superior person who is of higher social standing than the individual.
Moral neurotic anxiety
This anxiety comes as a result of conflict between the superego and the ego. Moral anxiety arises from the ego’s dependence on the superego.
Reality neurotic anxiety
It arises from the ego’s dependence on the external world. It is based on the fear of real-world events and this can be easily identified. The individual shows tendencies of being withdrawn by avoiding social contact with the external world. Anxiety acts as a warning signal to the ego of any impending form of danger which would stimulate adrenaline reflexes. It also causes repression which in turn reduces and regulates the anxiety. This defensive mechanism hence protects the ego and regulates the anxiety experienced.
Treatment of anxiety neurosis
Freud explained that an insight into the actual causes of anxiety acts as a curative and treatment measure in psychotherapy. If the patient provides an insight into his unpleasant feelings, he may be able to release them and therefore free himself from their effects. Modern technology has however been adopted in psychotherapy. The use of CT scanning machines has been used to develop all forms of psychoanalysis.
Free association is a psychotherapy technique that is majorly and commonly used in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and involves the release and revelation of all the unconscious components within an individual’s mind (Baker, 2002). This fact may provide solutions to the probable causes of psychosocial problems. Free association relieves the troubling symptoms by sharing problems by the victim, which may be perceived as an attempt by the victim to get relieved of his problems.
The therapist may allow the patient to speak his mind. The therapist may, however, take note and be aware of how the patient talks, and how he expresses his feelings, what he might not want to talk about or his choice of words. This fact may give and detect areas in which the victim is resistant. The therapist may not ignore or assume what the patient is saying, however vague or unrealistic it may seem. This fact argues that the unconscious mind expresses itself uniquely. The unconscious may also “conceal” itself and may not want to be discovered therefore the therapist may listen but try to make his own evaluation and also asses the emotions of the patient. It should be noted that free association relates to anxiety neurosis when the anxiety effects develop clinical challenges to the therapist like nausea, headaches, and pains.
Developing the transference aspect
Transference links comprise of unconscious aspects that are related to past happenings. The relationship can be important in understanding the patient, and consequently, it can also help in drawing crucial conclusions about his state. The relationship may develop if the therapist is neutral and maintains a certain distance with the patient. This form of psychoanalysis is still practiced today in modern day psychotherapy. Keeping away from the sight of the individual by the therapist or not facing him is believed to facilitate the therapy session.
Dreams are considered to be the path to the unconscious. This aspect can be crucial because the therapist may need to analyze the details of the dream to understand the cause of anxiety of the patient. Freud postulated the fact that dream components are understood as phallic meanings (Domhoff, 2000).Dream analysis has been one of the most challenging forms of anxiety analysis because the therapist is compelled to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the activities, fears, associations, expectations and daily operations. Dream analysis requires a procedural approach because it is complex to interpret dreams. The process depends on the kind of variables presented by the victim. The therapist has to begin his analysis from the known to the unknown.
Transference analysis and interpretation
The patient may show resistant tendencies during his evaluation of the dream. This fact can also happen in the course of free association. The therapist can apply certain mechanisms to establish the reasons for the patient’s refusal to respond to free association. At this stage, technological equipment is used to create paths and processes which may give possible leads as to the underlying reasons for a given patient’s resistance.
Advancements in psychotherapy
Emotional and cognitive tasks of the brain and mind have been discovered giving neuroscience a significant boost on its growth. This fact has been made possible by the use of brain imaging and analysis technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technology can map and determine all active parts of the patient’s brain. Even with the use of new technologies, it is still required that the patient suffering from anxiety should freely talk to a therapist, therefore, exposing his troubles. Certain psychologists have been conducting a lot of research on the significance of processing information and memory retention by the unconscious brain. Un-consciousness refers to the mental processes that are not explicit and controlled. This fact is close to what Freud defines as unconsciousness.
Researches from neuro-scientific programs have reported that factors that cause pleasure originated from the brain stem and the limbic system of the brain. A lot of research has also been done on dreams. During the discovery of the rapid eye movement (REM) in the 1950s, it was determined that eye movement was strongly related to dreaming, therefore, discounting Freud’s theories on dreams. The REM research later showed that only the brain stem region was involved in the rapid eye movements during sleep. This aspect was viewed as the “activation-synthesis” theory whereby the waking mind controlled the brain’s activities (Arbor, 2011).
Freud argued that eye movements and dreams were not similar. He discovered through his test patients that there were no dreams reported between 5-30% of the cases experienced by the REM testing patients but patients dreamt between 5-10%. He also discovered that brain lesions at the brain stem did not stop the act of dreaming. However, lesions that occurred in the regions of the forehead excluded dreams but yet maintained REM sleep (McWilliams, 2011).
It has also been discovered that dreams do not appear randomly. Lately, Daniel Wegner, a researcher, has researched with his colleagues on one feature about Freud’s theory of dreams (Szasz, 2007). Freud argued that wishes that were suppressed during the day were more likely to be experienced at night during the act of dreaming. His final research results revealed that his patients had suppressed actions during the daydreamed more and also dreamed of the suppressed actions that had occurred during the day (Clark, 2006).
A lot of research is being done on psychology. A big number of cognitive psychologists are either coming up with new theories or disapproving Freud’s theories. I agree with Freud’s theories and the extent to which he analyzes the different psychosocial theories with a view of solving the challenges that neurotic disorders cause to human beings. Several scholars have in the past criticized Freud’s theories on account of their being outdated and therefore not fit to be used in solving contemporary neurotic cases (Domhoff, web source, 2000). Critics of Freud should evaluate the value that his ideas had in the past and try to modify and contextualize them in the modern world. It is true that certain concepts that Freud postulated are outdated and unless recent technology is applied, then the ideas will be obsolete as they need to match with modern standards (Russon, 2003).
Freud’s theories do not capture the changing social, economic and political change that is taking place today and that is why several of his critics feel that his ideas cannot fit into the current times in our society. A lot of research should, however, be conducted to modify and contextualize Freud’s theories. The government should allocate adequate monetary resources. The challenges that most researchers face in their work is usually based on inadequate funds and therefore, psychosocial researchers should be sufficiently funded to improve on Freud’s ideas, especially technologically. Programs should also be formulated to encourage the creation of new knowledge in psychology. This move would help to encourage new researchers who would develop on what Freud did in psychosocial research. Psychology as a field of knowledge is relevant because many organizations need psychological counselors to offer counseling and related services to their employees.
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