Psychodynamic Model of Abnormal Psychology

Psychodynamic theorists see people as beings that are in conflict. They are interested in looking back on the past because, in their opinion, psychological difficulties are linked to early relationships and traumatic events that happened when they were children. The deterministic premise of psychodynamic theories holds that no symptom or behavior is "accidental" and that prior experiences influence all conduct.

The Roots of the Psychodynamic Model

The neurologist Sigmund Freud is credited with developing the psychodynamic model. First, Freud researched hypnosis and hysterical disorders with the help of Doctor Josef Breuer. Breuer is known for treating "Anna O.," a patient who presented with hysterical symptoms such as paralysis of the legs and right arm, deafness, and slurred speech. Breuer put the woman under hypnosis, intending to make suggestions to her while she was unconscious that would assist her in getting rid of her hysterical symptoms. However, when she was hypnotized, she started talking about upsetting prior experiences and expressing intense emotions. This outpouring of suppressed memories seems to increase the therapeutic effect. It was known as Anna's "talking cure."

Using this earlier research as a foundation, Freud created the theory of psychoanalysis to explain both regular and abnormal psychological functioning and a matching therapeutic approach, a conversational strategy also known as psychoanalysis.

The Structure of Personality

According to Freud, our personality is derived from the id, superego, and ego, which are the three components of our personality. Let us look at each one of them in detail.

  • Id − The id is the part of us that is impulsive and exhibits our sexual and aggressive inclinations. It is already there from birth, fully unconscious, and based on the pleasure principle, leading us to act selfishly and seek immediate enjoyment at any cost.

  • The Ego − After birth, the ego—the second aspect of personality—emerges from early formative events. The ego tries to balance the impulses with reality's requirements and, eventually, the superego's moral principles. It functions based on the reality principle or knowledge of the need to modify behavior to satisfy environmental requirements.

  • The Superego − The superego, which stands for social norms, moral principles, laws, and our conscience, is the last aspect of the personality to mature. As we learn that many of the id's desires are wrong, it causes us to adopt our parents' ideals. Even so, we occasionally transgress these principles and feel guilty about them. A portion of the superego, primarily unconscious but partially conscious, becomes our conscience.

Normal cooperation and compromise between the three components of personality result in a healthy personality. However, intrapsychic conflicts can develop mental diseases if disagreements are not resolved.

Freud's Psychosexual Stages

The following is a list of Freud's psychosexual stages of personality development. Please remember that a person can get fixated—that is, stuck—at any time, which might impair later development and result in deviant behavior or psychopathology.

  • Oral stage (Birth to 24 months) − The libido is concentrated in the mouth during the oral stage. Sucking and swallowing initially, followed subsequently by chewing and biting as baby teeth erupt, are ways to reduce sexual tension. Lack of confidence, argumentativeness, and sarcasm are all associated with fixation.

  • Anal stage (2−3 years) − − During the anal stage, the libido is directed toward the anus when potty training occurs. Children may grow unkempt or disorganized if parents are too permissive. Children may become stubborn or frugal if their parents are overly strict

  • Phallic Stage (3−5 or 6 years) − Children in the phallic stage develop an attachment to the parent of the opposite sex and are envious of the same−sex parent. Libido is centered on the genitalia. Boys with an Oedipus complex fall in love with their mothers and worry that their father will discover and castrate them. The Electra complex, which occurs when girls fall in love with their father but worry that their mother will find out, is in progress. At this point, a fixation may cause low self−esteem, worthlessness, and timidity.

  • Latent stage (6−12 years) − Children lose interest in sexual activity, and as a result, boys play with boys and girls with girls throughout the latency stage. The other sex receives little attention from either sex.

  • Genital stage (12 −Puberty) − Beginning at puberty, sexual impulses reawaken, and unfulfilled desires from infancy and childhood can be satisfied during lovemaking.

Freud has also talked about Ego−defense mechanisms that are designed to shield us from worry, but they are deemed maladaptive if they are overused and utilized as a main coping technique for stress. They include repression, denial, regression, sublimation, projection, reaction formation, displacement, and rationalization.

Psychodynamic Therapies

It includes −

  • Free Association − In psychodynamic therapy, the patient initiates and guides each conversation. The therapist instructs the patient to express whatever idea, emotion, or image comes to mind, regardless of how trivial it may appear. Free association is the term for this method. The therapist anticipates that the patient will eventually discover unconscious experiences through associations.

  • Therapist Interpretation − Psychodynamic therapists pay close attention to what their patients say, searching for hints and making educated guesses before presenting their interpretations when they feel the patient is ready to hear them. Interpretations of the phenomena of resistance, transference, and dreams are particularly crucial.

  • Dream Analysis − It involves the study of dreams to discover a person's deepest desires. As told by the dreamer, the actual account of the dream is known as the manifest content, and the latent content refers to the dream's symbolic or hidden significance. Regarding the latter, some symbols are unique to the person, while others are universal.


Freud's psychodynamic theory has significantly impacted the area of psychology. Although, it has certain criticisms. First, Freud relied on the case study technique and made the majority of his observations in an ad hoc, unplanned manner. Second, his study subjects were not generally typical of the populace. Freud generalized, but his theory was based on a small number of patients. Third, he sought no observer reports and only relied on the testimonies of his patients. Fourth, because most psychodynamic concepts are unconscious, empirical research into them is challenging. This raises the issue of how we can verify their existence.