A number of theories have been advanced to try and explain how an individual’s personality develops. Some of the prominent psychologists who have developed theories that have widely been accepted include; Eric Erikson, Sigmund Freud, and Kohler (Allen, 2003). Moreover, research findings reveal that a significant number of American population experience different types of psychiatric disorders. The essay will discuss Freud’s theory of personality development and then focus on the nature of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as one of the common disorders affecting up to 2% of America’s adult population.
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Among the various theories put forward to explain personality development, Freud’s psychoanalytic theory can be considered as one of the most comprehensive in explaining the development of human personality. Virtually all the dozen theories of personality development universally agree that personality starts at childhood and develops as the child grows to adulthood. This theory provides a clear and a stage by stage development of personality which I strongly agree with.
Freud’s theory argues that personality is shaped by inner tensions and struggles that an individual experiences and must be met sooner or later. He identified three major mental processes that are in constant conflict with each other; the Id, Ego, and the superego (Allen, 2003).
The Id involves the inherent biological instincts which are present at birth. It is irrational, impulsive, self-serving, and totally operates unconsciously. The Id is controlled by the pleasure principle but the urges are expressed uncontrollably. The ego, on the other hand, is in the middle and manages both the desires of the Id and those of the superego. The superego is like a censor for actions and thoughts of the ego.
Freud, in his theory, points out that an individual’s personality is formed before one is 6 years old by a series of psychosexual stages. He argues that infancy urges for erotic pleasure play a central role in personality development. Four erogenous zones were identified as having the potential of being the source of pleasure, frustration, and self-expression. Unresolved conflicts or emotional hang-ups would manifest themselves later in life as fixations (Allen, 2003).
The first is the oral stage. This occurs during the first year of life and the infant derives pleasure from mouth stimulation. Oral traits may be created at this stage if they are overfed or suppressed. Such traits include, gum chewing, smoking, kissing, alcoholism, and nail biting in adulthood. Fixation of oral stage later creates oral-aggressive mature person who argues always.
Anal stage occurs between ages 1 and 3. At this stage, the child attention moves to elimination process. When the child is trained on toileting, he may react by approval or express aggression and rebellion. In turn, he “withholds” or “let go.” The type of such training may instill such responses into personality. Traits at adulthood due to this stage include; compulsive cleanliness, orderliness, or disorderliness, destructiveness, or cruelty, for the case of “let go.”
When the child is aged 3 and 6, the phallic traits are develops. As a result of enhanced sexual interest, the child is physically attached to the parent of opposite sex albeit causing conflicts which must be dealt with. Phallic personality at adulthood is characterized by exhibitionism, sensitive pride, self-love, and egotism. After age 6, a period of latency ensues. This stage lasts until puberty.
At puberty, the adolescent experiences changes in sexual energies which unravel all the unresolved conflicts of childhood. This may result in emotional swings and turmoil. It is resolved by a heterosexual relationship and later leads to adult sexuality. All these characteristics can be clearly seen in day to day life and this theory can provide some guidelines (Corey, 2008).
Having discussed one of the theories of personality development, we shall now consider one of the major psychological disorders in the United States of America. Psychological disorders can really interfere with a person’s personality at any given age. Of the many psychological disorders listed, we shall focus on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
OCD is a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by obsessions and compulsions of exaggerated magnitudes (NIMH, 2009). This disorder has very clear symptoms since they are not what can be expected of a normal person. The person reports having obsessions which include; persistent thoughts, impulses or images which come uncontrollably into the sufferer’s mind. This results in extreme anxiety and distress.
To counter these experiences, the sufferer resorts to compulsive or repetitive actions or thoughts like praying, counting, word repetition, or such behaviors as redoing actions, ordering, cleaning, checking, and or washing hands severally to avoid “contamination.” All these behaviors are such that they are not expected of a normal person. It consumes a lot of time and the sufferer knows that the obsessions and compulsions are senseless and inappropriate only that they find it too difficult to do without.
Unfortunately, this disorder has no cure yet apart from some prescribed treatment approaches. The most effective, according to psychiatrists, is the use of the cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) through the use of Exposure Response Prevention (EPR) (NIMH, 2009).
This is purely non-medical and it involves exposure/conditioning to sources of anxiety. The second treatment alternative is through recommended medication like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). The drugs used regulate the flow of Serotonin in the mind.
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The essay has discussed in brief Sigmund Freud’s personality development theory. It has described how personality develops from infancy to maturity. The paper has also discussed briefly the OCD and the available treatment approaches.
Allen, B. P. (2003). Theories of personality: development, growth, and diversity. Allyn and Bacon.
Corey, G. (2008). Personality: theory and practice of counseling psychotherapy (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.
National Institute of Mental Health-NIMH (2009). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Government of the United States of America.