Sigmund Freud – 3 Types of anxiety and its treatment

Sigmund Freud – 3 Types of anxiety and its treatment

Sigmund Freud is widely regarded as the father of psychoanalysis, a discipline that explores the unconscious mind and its influence on human behavior. Freud developed his theories through the analysis of his own dreams, as well as the dreams and symptoms of his patients. He also introduced concepts such as the id, ego, superego, libido, and repression, which have shaped the field of psychology and influenced many other domains of knowledge.

Sigmund Freud & anxiety

Sigmund Freud

According to Sigmund Freud, anxiety is a result of conflicts within the human mind. He divided the mind into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the source of our primal impulses and desires, such as hunger, sex, and aggression. The ego is our conscious self, which tries to balance the id’s demands with reality and rationality. The superego is our moral conscience, which reflects the values and norms of society.

Sigmund Freud identified three types of anxiety that arise from these conflicts:

– Reality Anxiety: This is the fear of real dangers or threats in the external world, such as physical harm, illness, or death.

– Neurotic Anxiety: This is the fear of losing control over the id’s impulses, which may violate the superego’s moral standards. This type of anxiety is the main focus of Freud’s psychoanalytic therapy.

– Moral Anxiety: This is the guilt or shame that comes from violating or being tempted to violate the superego’s rules.

Treatment of anxiety according to Freud

Sigmund Freud’s therapy for neurotic anxiety was psychoanalysis, a form of talk therapy that aimed to uncover and resolve unconscious conflicts. He used several techniques to achieve this goal:

– Free Association: Patients were asked to speak freely and spontaneously, without censoring or editing their thoughts. Freud believed that this would reveal hidden associations and meanings behind their words.

– Dream Analysis: Freud considered dreams to be “the royal road to the unconscious”, as they expressed the id’s wishes and fantasies in symbolic form. He used dream interpretation to decode these symbols and uncover their latent content.

– Transference: Patients often developed strong emotional reactions toward their psychotherapist, such as love, hate, or admiration. Freud saw this as a projection of their feelings and attitudes toward important figures in their lives, such as parents, siblings, or partners. He used transference analysis to help patients understand and resolve these relationships and conflicts.

– Analysis of Defense Mechanisms: Sigmund Freud observed that patients often used defense mechanisms to cope with anxiety and avoid confronting their unconscious conflicts. These included repression (pushing unpleasant thoughts or memories out of awareness), denial (refusing to accept reality), projection (attributing one’s own feelings or motives to others), rationalization (justifying one’s actions or beliefs with logical reasons), and sublimation (channeling unacceptable impulses into socially acceptable activities). Freud analyzed how patients used these defenses and tried to help them overcome them.

Sigmund Freud believed that by bringing these unconscious conflicts to conscious awareness, patients could gain insight into the root causes of their anxiety and work through them. He hoped that this would lead to a reduction in their symptoms and an improvement in their well-being.

Criticisms and modifications

Criticisms and modifications

However, Freud’s theory of anxiety and his method of psychoanalysis have been subject to many criticisms and modifications over time. Modern psychology has developed various approaches to understanding and treating anxiety disorders, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and medication. These approaches are based on empirical evidence and scientific research, rather than on Freud’s personal observations and speculations.


Therefore, while Freud’s ideas on anxiety may be interesting from a historical perspective, they are not necessarily accurate or effective for today’s patients. If you are suffering from anxiety, you may want to consult a qualified mental health professional who can offer you evidence-based treatment options that suit your needs.

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