Advanced Psychopathology

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Joshua's Response, Obsessive-Compulsive and Hysterical

Freud believed the obsessive-compulsive personality style (OCPS) to be characterized by issues revolving around the anal stage of development, including cleanliness, stubbornness (rigidity), concerns about punctuality, and tendencies towards withholding (McWilliams). It was believed that such persons were prematurely toilet-trained or done so with undue force or control. Others view this atmosphere of control as a present force during all stages of development. According to McWilliams, the families of those with OCPS exert control in moralized, guilt-inducing ways (traditional conception). However, contemporary views of OCPS recognize families that exert control in shame-inducing ways and families that under-parent.
This atmosphere of control results in a personality style characterized by intense, sharply focused attention, rigidity in thinking, and “tense deliberateness” (Shapiro). Obsessive-compulsive appear to be driven to act, as being pressed and motivated to act. The duties and responsibilities that drive the obsessive-compulsive are the product of their harsh superego.
Given the harsh-superego of the OCPS, it is not surprising that a primary defense of obsessive-compulsive persons is moralization, specifically “moral masochism” (McWilliams). Rationalizers find cognitively acceptable ways of validating their actions, while moralizers find it is their duty to perform certain actions. This fits with the driven nature of the OCPS. Other defenses in operation include reaction formation and undoing. McWilliams views the obsessive-compulsive persons’ rigid deliberateness as a reaction formation against wishes to be irresponsible or messy. She also identifies undoing in response to the feeling of having committed some crime.
Finally, affective experience requires a person to relax, to a certain degree, their deliberateness. However, the intense rigidity and deliberateness of the OCPS causes the restriction in affective expression characteristic of obsessive-compulsive persons (Shapiro).
According to Freud (as cited in McWilliams), the hysterical personality is the result of a fixation at the Oedipal stage of psychosexual development. The histories of hysterical individuals are filled with events that assign varying levels of importance to the sexes. The hysterical woman both identifies with her mother and sees her as a source of competition.
The cognitive life of those with a hysterical personality style is impressionistic (McWilliams and Shapiro). Unlike those with an OCPS, hysterical individuals are easily distracted. This cognitive style lends itself to a primary defense of the hysterical person, repression. Recollection of facts or emotionally charged information that is built on an impressionistic, distractible frame is unlikely (Shapiro).
Other defenses employed by the hysterical personality include sexualization and regression. Their wish for love, for approval and validation, may be amplify into sexualization or produce childlike flirtation. The emotional expressiveness may have an insincere flavor, but it is a mechanism aimed at allowing the hysterical individual deal with their own anxiety.

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