Freud: A Critical Re-Evaluation of His Theories

By Reuben D. Fine | Go to book overview

Chapter XVII. PSYCHOANALYSIS, PSYCHIATRY AND PSYCHOLOGY

PSYCHIATRY

Technically Freud was a psychiatrist, as have been the majority of psychoanalysts. The relationship between psychoanalysis and psychiatry has for this and other reasons always been a central concern to the profession. It almost seems as if every psychoanalyst sooner or later finds himself compelled to say something on the subject; the literature contains innumerable contributions.

Probably the prevalent view today is that psychiatry provides the description of mental illness, while psychoanalysis gives us the dynamic understanding. Thus Kraepelin and Freud are somehow combined and reconciled. It is doubtful whether on closer examination such a view is tenable.

Clarity can only be reached by reviewing the historical development. Physicians began to take an active interest in the mentally ill around the time of the French Revolution. Their interest was aroused by the humanitarian wish to rescue the patient from the clutches of the demonologists, who were primarily the clergy. This interest however could be justified only by an organic hypothesis: The mentally ill must have some medical illness, most probably something wrong with their brain. Thus was born the concept of "mental illness" by analogy with physical illness, a concept which scarcely existed before 1800. Medical research would tackle this illness as it tackled all others; it would classify the phenomena, find the causes, and effect a cure. Primarily the physician was concerned with the psy-

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