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What is Psychoanalysis?

Updated on February 22, 2013
In psychoanalysis, unconscious mind is unraveled thus making a person adaptive to his/her emotions and environment.
In psychoanalysis, unconscious mind is unraveled thus making a person adaptive to his/her emotions and environment. | Source

Psychoanalysis is a method to treat mental disorders. In psychoanalysis, unconscious mind is unraveled thus making a person adaptive to his/her emotions and environment. Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) is the father Psychoanalysis. Oedipus complex is one of the notable theories of Sigmund Freud.

Erik Erikson elaborated Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis and proposed psychosocial stage theory of personality. Despite having some differences with Freud, Carl Jung also expounded psychoanalysis. Carl Jung contributed to psychoanalysis by propounding many theories including Electra complex. Some of the thinkers who have substantially contributed to psychoanalysis are Anna Freud, Erich Fromm, Karl Abraham, Otto Rank and Sabina Spielrein.

Freud developed the theory of psychoanalysis from his clinical observations of neurotic patients during 1890s. He often practiced hypnosis to bring ideas and impulses of a patient to conscious level. Some of the patients were willing to talk freely without being hypnotized, which helped Freud to develop the technique of free association of ideas. From the technique of free association of ideas, Freud could study the meanings of dreams, tongue-slips, forgetfulness, and mistakes in everyday life. The study led to the discovery of the id, the ego, and the superego.

Opponents often criticize Freud’s theories for its overt dependence on biological instincts, and failure to comprehend the psychology of larger population. However, psychoanalysis has made profound impact on understanding of human mind and behavior, culture, anthropology, sociology, literature, and the arts.

Ego: (Latin I) – The Ego is ‘I’ or ‘self’ in human beings. The ego is an element in human mind that responds to surrounding. In other words, the ego remembers, judges, imagines, anticipates and plans. According to Freud, the ego coexists with id and superego. The ego balances primitive demands of id and idealist demands of superego. The ego remembers past and relates to the actions committed in present, and anticipates about future, thus giving consistency of human behavior. The ego is subject to change in unusual situations such as fear, disease, threat etc. When the ego is strong in a person, he/she can immediately respond to environment and the social causes, and can properly channelize his wants, wishes and desires. In the other hand, a person with weak ego is emotionally weak, vulnerable and has inferiority complex. The concept of ego was defined by Freud and explored by Carl Jung.

Psychoanalysis Key Terms

Id: (Latin it) Id is one of the three elements of human mind (other two are ego and superego). Id is related to primitive human instincts such as needs, desires, aggression, and bodily pleasure. Id is present at the time of birth and works according to pain and pleasure principle. Id is not affected by reason or logic, however, prompts in the development of the conscious, even though it is in unconscious state. Freud believed that Id can be unraveled through dream analysis.

Superego: The Superego is associated with ethics and morality and prompts the ego to operate in moral standards, while suppressing the id. The superego criticizes prohibitions and inhibitions and cultivates positive ideals to project the idealized self-image of a person. Freud believed that the superego evolves during the initial five years in humans and continues to develop in young adulthood. The superego is the response to parental treatment and social upbringing. The child internalizes the ideals and standards of parents. Later he/she absorbs cultural beliefs of the society. When the superego is violated, human beings feel guilt or anxiety.

Unconscious: Memories that cannot be recalled at a particular time but unraveled later are hidden in unconscious.
Unconscious: Memories that cannot be recalled at a particular time but unraveled later are hidden in unconscious. | Source
In psychoanalysis, the Id is related to primitive human instincts such as needs, desires, aggression, and bodily pleasure.
In psychoanalysis, the Id is related to primitive human instincts such as needs, desires, aggression, and bodily pleasure. | Source

Levels of Consciousness in Psychoanalysis

According to Freud, there are different levels of consciousness. Study of a person’s consciousness is based on inference.Conscious is the immediate awareness, for instance your current activity, i.e. reading. You can recall things because of preconscious. You may not be thinking about your mother at this moment, but when asked you can describe her.

Memories that cannot be recalled at a particular time but unraveled later are hidden in unconscious. A person may not have the memory of an accident he had in his childhood, but may remember while in psychotherapy session.

Conscious: Conscious is the part of human mind associated with awareness. Human beings can comprehend and talk about their conscious mind.

Unconscious: (Also called subconscious) Unconscious is the part of human mind that is beyond cognition, however, it effects his/her behavior. Freud believed that dreams and tongue slips are byproduct of unconscious. Everything that occurred to a person and his/her reactions to the stimulus are hidden in unconscious. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence a person’s behavior and experience even though he/she are unaware of these underlying influences.

Defense Mechanisms: Ego is the mediator between the id and the superego, and this mediation is called defense mechanism.

Psychoanalytic therapy cures different types of psychological disorders
Psychoanalytic therapy cures different types of psychological disorders | Source

Psychoanalytic therapy promotes good mental health by dealing with different forms of disorders such as:

Behavior disorders

Psychotic disorders

Neurotic disorders

Psychosomatic disorders

Personality disorders


Psychoanalytic Therapies

In the early times, mental illness was believed to be caused by evil spirit, which could be cured only by priests and shamans by moderating certain rites. Later, mental illness was defined as a phenomenon, and was treated by promoting well-being and quality of life. In the late 18th century, Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer took his patient into trance state to treat mental disorders. This technique was called Mesmerism, which later gave birth to hypnotism. Sigmund Feud widely practiced hypnotism during his clinical observations. His studies gave birth to psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Today, psychoanalysis, more than a theory, is an applied science. Psychoanalysis analyzes human mind and finds cure for emotional or behavioral problems in a man and a woman through psychoanalytic therapies. Psychoanalyst moderates psychoanalytic therapy, which is also called counseling. The modern psychoanalytic therapies are based on Ivan P. Pavlov's Classical Conditioning Theory, B.F. Skinner's Operant Conditioning Theory, and Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory.

In psychoanalytic therapy, medications may be administered, but the treatment, by and large, is based on talking sessions between the patient and the psychoanalyst. Individual or group counseling sessions are held to deal with patients’ cognitive, behavioral, even physical problems. During the psychoanalytic therapies, psychoanalyst facilitates development of problem resolution skills in a patient and helps him/her recover personality growth. Psychoanalytic therapy helps a patient understand his/her behavior and alter his/her emotional response.

Conscious is the immediate awareness, for instance your current activity,
Conscious is the immediate awareness, for instance your current activity, | Source

Treatments for Depression

Psychotherapy: In psychoanalytic therapy, patients are given emotional support so that he/she can adapt with life’s situations.

Psychotropic medication: Antidepressant drugs are administered to regulate the neurotransmitters.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Electric current is passed into a patient’s brain to cure severe depression.

Psychoanalytic therapy, along with administration of antidepressant drugs, is considered the most suitable treatment for depression. Psychoanalysis helps depression patient discover his/her personality by altering his/her behavior and thinking, and making him aware about life and living.

Psychoanalysis and Depression

Depression has been in existence since thousands of years. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – 375 BC) called it melancholia. Symptoms of depression varies from person to person, however, the most common characteristics are sleeping disorder, loss of appetite, inability to take interest in daily activities, pessimism; feeling low, sad, and dejected; full of self destructive thoughts, and low self-esteem.

You may experience unhappiness and grief, however, when such emotions become severe or last long, you may be suffering from depression. Depression can be mild, severe, acute or chronic, and can occur in any age. Women are more prone to depression then men. Severe depression leads to many psychological disorders.

Some of the causes of depression are:

Unfavorable events in a person’s life

Pessimism or self-destructive thoughts

Biochemical problems in neurotransmitters in the brain

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep disorder

Have you ever suffered from depression and been to psychotherapy sessions?

See results


The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, Dodo Press, 2009

The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud, Pacific Publishing Studio, 2010

Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, 2011


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    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal


      I did not study psychology in the university, however, my father and sister studied psychology. Their knowledge prompted my interest. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Vinaya,

      This takes me back to my days of studying psychology in school and preparing to become a nurse. Good job on introducing those who may not be familiar with this terminology and ideas. Up, useful and interesting votes.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      @teaches, psychology is one of my subject of interest. Thanks for being here.

      @Rosemary, I'm just a learner,and find interest in different subjects. Thanks for sincerely following my works.

      @mckbirdbks, I try to learn things and understand life and living. Thanks for your comment.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      You are presenting such a vast variety of information to us your followers. You have such a high level of curiousity.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      This is quite a comprehensive hub on a complicated topic. You have made it interesting and easy to understand. You would make a marvelous teacher.

      It is obvious that you spent a lot of time in research to create this hub and it is very much appreciated.

      Enjoy your week

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Wow, very well written. I found this subject interesting and know it will help many to understand this treament better.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal


      Since I'm not an expert on the subject I have tried to write this article for layman/woman. Thanks for complementing my work. I retouched the photo, but that's not me on the photo.

      @Stephaine, I agree psychoanalysis is not entirely about treating mental illness. In this article I have tried to focus psychoanalysis only on mental health. Thanks for reading.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I love the detail and coverage in your writing here. The only part I would content with is that psychoanalysis is only for treating mental illness or disorders. Many people use psychoanalysis for dream interpretation or discovering something that might be suppressed. I mention this only because of how the theory is used when analyzing literature with use of other Freudian ideas.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I commend you for taking on a very complicated and hard to understand subject; however, you wrote a wonderful article with a lot of research to make the subject easier to understand.

      Is that a photo of you with "temptation" behind you??? That is a very clever photo the way you did that!

      I certainly voted this UP, etc. and will share..

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      @fpherj, Mental illness is a delicate subject, my father was in psychotherapy for more than 10 years, I was a seventh grader when I visited psychoanalyst for the first time. Thanks for encouragement.

      @Sunshine, I will congratulate myself if this article helps anybody. Thanks for complimenting my work.

      @Alastar, Jung and Freud has lot of differences over their theories, I think they both spoke about truth in their own way. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      @Jackie, it is true that mental disease can be dangerous not only for the man/woman suffering from illness, but also surrounding people. However, I believe, we have to treat mental patient with humility.

      @Vellur, mental health is as important as physical health. In my culture, people are beginning to give importance to mental health.

      @Denise, Freud based all of his theories on biology of libido, however, Jung looked at various factor. Thanks for leaving valuable feedback

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Marvelous hub, Vinaya. This is quite a concise history of a complex topic. I liked how you broke the three areas down with an explanation of the id, ego, superego. It isn't an easy subject to understand. Freud most definitely contributed with some wonderful theories about the unconscious, but unfortunately, he had a narrow view and it stunted any expansion of the subject. While I respect what he had to offer, I'm more a Jung follower. Thanks for the interesting and useful info. UP/U/I / A and sharing.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      A great write, conditions of the mind should be treated with care and consideration. Nowadays people seek the help of therapist without any inhibitions. It is always better to get help than be depressed. Informative and interesting, voted up.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I read this a couple days ago, must have gotten busy, sorry. I studied much of this years ago in school and it was really very interesting. This is something that needs to be looked at, especially today when these ill people can be such a danger to so many, given the right circumstances and in certain cases. It is very sad though and no one deserves to suffer like this. Thanks for a great study. ^

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      You've refreshed my memory on certain things related to the subject in this well researched and written piece Vin, thank you. I always preferred Jung over Freud to study for various reasons but there can be no doubt of the latter's importance to understanding psychoanalysis. Votes up Vin, nicely done.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Well done Vinaya!! It's obvious you spent much time and research in this article. I hope it helps many who might need it.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Vinaya, Your amount of research is commendable. I compliment you on your careful use of this vital information. Mental Illness, it's treatments and therapies are not only delicate subject matter, but ever changing, and transferable.

      There have always been a myriad of Learned professionals, past and present, who have had vastly diverse findings and results from their studies, multi-testing and hypothesis.

      It is never too late, Vinaya to go for a career in the field of Mental Health. I was in my late thirties when I finally completed my studies.

      You have an ideal demeanor to be a therapist.....Great hub, compliments... UP+++

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      @midget, psychoanalysis is surely a complicated subject. Being a layman I have written for layman/woman. Thanks for your comment.

      @MIke, thanks

      @Frank, cheers

      @dreamseekers, I visited a psychoanalyst first time when I was a seventh grader. My father wanted to find out reasons behind my violent anger. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      @Nell Rose, mind is very complicated things, it is always interesting to know more about mind.

      @always exploring, I did not study psychology in university, but I have been interested in the subject since long time.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Vinaya, This is a well researched hub. I had to take psychology in college to enter the R.N. program. This is like a great refresher course. Thank you. Your hubs are very educational..Keep writing...

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Fantastic hub Vinaya, we studied psychoanalysis at psychology, it really is a fascinating subject, voted up! nell

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The mind is so complicated, more than just ones brain sitting in ones head to think and respond. I have two grown sons diagnosed with a mental illness. Mostly related to social anxieties. I was interested in reading your article because of what I have experienced trying to help my sons in their individual situations and through their counseling with doctors experienced in the field. It is interesting and useful to read your spin on things related to helping those who suffer through such things. Good hub. Voted it up!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      thank you so much Vin for your educational shares bless you bro

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      6 years ago from London

      Interesting read Vinaya...

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      I have understood the need for psychoanalysis to render a little assistance for the superego to apply just a tad more pressure on the ID! Thanks for sharing, it's a complicated subject you've made easier for us!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      @Love doc, I learn from you and you learn from me.This is two way learning process.

      @DDE, I'm glad that you learned something new from this hub.

      @Angle, thanks for your generous comment.

    • Angelme566 profile image


      6 years ago

      I need to reread it so i will understand fully.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have handled this information very well on psychoanalysis, I learned something new here. The method of treatment for mental disorders, most informative.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Vinaya, this is a very good presentation. I always learn something new from reading your hubs. voting up!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      @Billy, even though I did not study psychology in university, psychoanalysis is my subject of interest. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      @tillsontitan, wow, that's a wonderful compliment. Thanks for being here.

      @acaetnna, I'm glad that you liked my work. Cheers

      @Mhatter, thanks for being here.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. Took me back to my college days.

    • acaetnna profile image


      6 years ago from Guildford

      Gosh what a brilliant hub. I confess I shall definitely have to read it several times to take in all of the information completely!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      This is a tough subject with lots of varying opinions. You've covered a lot of ground from Freud on up. What's really nice is we can all Bill pointed out. Making a complicated subject uncomplicated takes talent and you have that talent.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information about a complicated subject. You did a good job of simplifying it so everyone could understand.


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