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Anna O and her importance to psychoanalytic history

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Who was Anna O? Why is she so crucial a figure to psychoanalysis?

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Anna O's real name was Bertha Pappenheim and she was a patient of a man named Dr. Breuer.

On October 29, 1882: "Anna O.", the subject of Sigmund Freud's more famous writings on the psychoanalytic method, was discharged from the Bellevue Sanatorium in Kreutzlingen, Switzerland. She had been admitted on July 12, 1882 after 18 months of treatment by Josef Breuer, Freud's mentor. This treatment would become the cornerstone of psychoanalysis, but did not do much to solve Anna's problems.

The following is an overview of Freud's thoughts on this case, taken from "Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis"

At the time of the case, she was a girl of twenty-one, and of high intellectual gifts. Her illness lasted for over two years, and in the course of it she developed a series of physical and psychological disturbances which decidedly deserved to be taken seriously. She suffered from a rigid paralysis, accompanied by loss of sensation, of both extremities on the right side of her body; and the same trouble from time to time affected her on her left side. Her eye movements were disturbed and her power of vision was subject to numerous restrictions. She had difficulties over the posture of her head; she had a severe nervous cough. She had an aversion to taking nourishment, and on one occasion she was for several weeks unable to drink in spite of a tormenting thirst. Her powers of speech were reduced, even to the point of her being unable to speak or understand her native language. Finally, she was subject to conditions of 'absence', of confusion, of delirium, and of alteration of her whole personality.

When you hear such an enumeration of symptoms, you will be inclined to think it safe to assume, even though you are not doctors, that what we have before us is a severe illness, probably affecting the brain, that it offers small prospect of recovery and will probably lead to the patient's early death. You must be prepared to learn from the doctors, however, that, in a number of cases which display severe symptoms such as these, it is justifiable to take a different and a far more favourable view. If a picture of this kind is presented by a young patient of the female sex, whose vital internal organs (heart, kidneys, etc.) are shown on objective examination to be normal, but who has been subjected to violent emotional shocks - if, moreover, her various symptoms differ in certain matters of detail from what would have been expected - then doctors are not inclined to take the case too seriously. They decide that what they have before them is not an organic disease of the brain, but the enigmatic condition which, from the time of ancient Greek medicine, has been known as 'hysteria' and which has the power of producing illusory pictures of a whole ...

Solution Summary

This solution explores the personal history of Anna O and her importance to psychoanalytic history.

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