Developmental Aspects of Affect Pathology A Contribution to the Symposium: “Psychosomatic Pathology as a Developmental Failure. A Model for Research”

  • Joyce McDougall


I first became interested in an unusual form of affectpathology when faced with patients whose psychoanalytic process seemed constantly to come to a halt and in certain cases never even to have begun. Many of these patients had in their initial interviews complained of feeling empty, lifeless, out of touch with people and events. As time went on I came to realize that these analysands were giving free rein to thoughts that were practically devoid of affect and concommitantly showed a severe lack of affect-tolerance. This was manifested in what I came to describe as an “addictive personality organization” (McDougall, 1982). This referred to individuals who, in face of any strong emotional arousal, would plunge into immediate action intended to dispel the affective mobilization rather than contain it and elaborate it mentally. Such “action-symptoms” could take the form of drug and medication abuse, alcoholism, boulimia, etc., or again might be expressed in an addictive use of sexuality of a perverse or compulsive nature in which the sexual object had virtually no true existence but was utilized as a drug. In addition many of these analysands displayed psychosomatic affections, and these were frequently exacerbated at times when the addictive substance or relationship failed to disperse mental pain.


Sexual Object Addictive Substance Transitional Object Transitional Phenomenon Sexual Guilt 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joyce McDougall
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychoanalytic InstituteParisFrance

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