Drugs That Dull Affect May Hinder Psychoanalysis: Patients May Miss Out

By Lane, Laura | Clinical Psychiatry News, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Drugs That Dull Affect May Hinder Psychoanalysis: Patients May Miss Out


Lane, Laura, Clinical Psychiatry News


SAN FRANCISCO -- Awakening after a wild drunken evening at a wedding, Dr. Steven Leavitt felt horribly remorseful and hopeless. His depression had finally caught up with him. He needed help.

It was 1966, a time when psychoanalysis was the treatment of choice. "We believed that the psychotherapeutic encounter, with its emphasis on various models of the psychic dynamics, could alleviate the painful affects associated with psychoneurosis, various character pathologies, and, in some cases, even psychosis," said Dr. Leavitt at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry.

After several years of therapy, his depression, for the most part, lifted. While depressed, Dr. Leavitt experienced images and emotions associated with his past, which made him receptive to therapy.

"Affect had brought me to my analysis. It kept me there. It guided much of the process, and finally faded," he said.

But in the modern day of psychopharmacology, in which medications that may dull affect are the treatment of choice, patients may be missing out on the opportunity offered by psychoanalysis to root out the conflicts, traumas, and personality glitches that lie at the foundation of their illnesses, according to Dr. Leavitt, who is a psychiatrist in San Francisco.

"Affect served therapists as a flashlight into the cave of psychic struggle or the unconscious," he said.

In 1992, mental illness again surfaced for Dr. Leavitt. Bearing the intense pressures of business during tough economic times, he had difficulty sleeping. …

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