Anxiety and Neurosis

Anxiety and Neurosis

Anxiety and Neurosis

Anxiety and Neurosis


Anxiety may be debilitating or stimulating; it can result in neurotic symptoms or in improved, heightened performance in an actor or athlete. It is something every human being has experienced.

As Professor G. M. Carstairs points out in his Foreword:
"During the course of the twentieth century we have found it progressively easier to concede that we are all to often swayed by emotion rather than reason We have come to recognize the symptoms of neurotically ill patients are only an exaggeration of experiences common to us all, and hence that the unraveling of the psychodynamics of neurosis can teach us more about ourselves."

Although Charles Rycroft is also a psychoanalyst, it is as a biologist that he has made this study of anxiety, the three basic responses to it--attack, flight or submission--and the obsessional, phobic and schizoid and hysterical defenses. Written in precise but everyday language, Anxiety and Neurosis is based on adult experiences rather than the speculative theories of infantile instinctual development. Its clarity and authority can only add to Dr Rycroft's established international reputation.


A young woman was so anxious whenever she left home that she was unable to do so unaccompanied; and yet when a car in which she was a passenger was involved in an accident, she kept her head, gave first aid and called for the police without hesitation. A laboratory assistant, one of whose regular duties was to take samples of blood from experimental animals, became anxious and nearly fainted, as he watched a sample of his own blood being taken by a doctor. Another man seemed entirely at ease as the doctor he had consulted took his history but started trembling like a leaf when he was asked to lie on the examination couch.

There is something peculiar about these three incidents. Why should a woman who can deal competently with an emergency be terrified at the prospect of walking out of her front door? Why should a man who takes blood from animals daily be upset by being on the receiving end of a procedure he knows well? And why should a man who trusts his doctor enough to visit him and talk freely to him be alarmed at the prospect of being examined by him? In each case an intense and distressing emotional reaction has been evoked by a situation which seems inappropriate and inadequate to cause it.

There is, however, nothing peculiar about the emotional . . .

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