Sigmund Freud: As a Psychologist

Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud is often credited as the creator of psychoanalysis. Freud devised an array of talk−based therapeutic procedures that included concepts like attachment, individual liberty, and dream interpretation. During the early days of psychology, psychoanalysis emerged and continues to have a major impact on the field. Freudian slips, the subconscious, desire fulfilment, and self−importance are all terms borrowed from Freud and are now commonplace in popular culture as well as in the jargon of psychologists.

Who was Sigmund Freud?

Sigmund Freud spent most of his life in Vienna, having moved there from Frieberg, Moravia, when he was a child. His parents homeschooled him until he was old enough to attend Spurling Gymnasium, wherein he excelled academically and finished at the top of his class with a summa cum laude. Freud earned his medical degree from the University of Austria and established himself as a respected practitioner. While studying under the renowned French physician Jean−Martin Charcot, Freud developed a deep interest in the mental illness of hysteria. Freud's mentor, Dr. Josef Breuer, and his companion, Anna O., who went by the name Bertha Pappenheim, exposed him to the study case later. Her physical manifestations were a nervous cough, numbness in her hands, and paralysis. During her time in therapy, the lady remembered several traumatic events that Freud and Breuer felt had played a role in her condition. The two doctors determined that Anna O's problems did not have a physical basis but that talking about them helped alleviate her symptoms. Breuer and Freud authored the submitted Assignments in Hysteria in 1896. In her writings, Bertha Pappenheim called her therapy "the talking cure".

Sigmund Freud
Born6 May 1856
Birth PlaceFreiberg in Mähren, Moravia, Austrian Empire
Died23 September 1939
Death PlaceHampstead, London, England
Alma MaterUniversity of Vienna (MD, 1881)
Fields of SpecializationNeurology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis
Known ForPsychoanalysis, including the theories of id, ego and super−ego, oedipus complex, repression, defense mechanism
AwardsGoethe Prize (1930) & Foreign Member of the Royal Society

Early Life of Sigmund Freud

Financial hardships forced the Freud family to relocate to Leipzig in 1859 and then to Vienna the following year, where Freud would stay until the Nazi invasion of Austrian 78 years later. Psychoanalysis mirrored in major ways the historical and economic milieu from which it evolved, notwithstanding Freud's disdain of the imperial metropolis, in part due to the rampant anti-Semitism of its residents. After graduating from Sperl Gymnasium in 1873, Freud reportedly decided to pursue a profession in medicine after hearing a dramatic reading of Goethe's essay on nature. In 1882, he began his medical education as a medical assistant at Vienna's General Hospital, studying under renowned psychologist Theodor Meynert and professor of primary care Hermann Nothnagel.

The Case of Anna O.

For a novice neuropathologist in Vienna named Sigmund Freud, the Anna O case was a watershed moment in his career, and it even swayed the course of psychology in the years to come. Hysteria, the disorder that Anna O. experienced, is characterized by physical ailments (such as immobility, seizures, delusions, and loss of speech) without a clear organic explanation. Anna was successfully treated by her physician (and Freud's instructor), Josef Breuer, who prompted her to reveal previously suppressed memories of trauma.

Cocaine Episode of Freud

Freud had been an early consumer and promoter of cocaine as a stimulant and painkiller, and he also wrote extensively about its benefits in his medical study. His 1884 article "On Coca" proclaimed his belief that cocaine may alleviate many health issues. Between 1883 and 1887, he published multiple publications advocating its medicinal usage, particularly as an antidepressant. He was aware of its anesthetic qualities, which he only described briefly, but he almost got scientific priority for finding them. Cocaine was one of Freud's suggested treatments for morphine dependence. Since his buddy Ernst von Fleischl−Marxow had been dependent on morphine to treat the chronic nerve agony he had had since hurting himself doing an autopsy, he had given him a taste of cocaine.

Theories of Sigmund Freud

Freud had proposed the following major theories −

Unconscious Mind − Freud created a "topographical model" of the mind, in which he detailed the anatomy and operations of the mind. Freud used an iceberg to illustrate the mind's three layers. The ideas now at the forefront of our minds make up awareness, which is the visible part of the iceberg.

Psyche − The id, ego, and superego make up Freud's later, more structured model of the mind. These are not actual brain regions but abstract representations of crucial cognitive processes. Traditionally, the human psyche has been broken down into the id, mind, and superego.

Psychosexual Stage − Particularly women in Freud's severely oppressive "Victorian" society had to control their sexual desires. Because of this, many people develop neurotic illnesses. By investigating his patients' sexual pasts, Freud hoped to learn more about the causes and manifestations of his patients' diseases.

Dream Analysis − The ego's defenses are decreased while dreaming, allowing some of the suppressed information to filter through to consciousness, although distorted, Freud viewed nightmares as the royal way to the unconscious. Dreams serve essential purposes for the subconscious mind and provide useful insights into the workings of the subconscious.

Books by Sigmund Freud

The most famous books written by Sigmund Freud are mentioned as follows.

Studies on Hysteria − Included in this collection of essays by Josef Breuer and his co-authors is a discussion of five hysterical patients, most notably Breuer's famous example of Anna O. Readers were split on their opinions of the book.

The Interpretation of Dreams − One of Freud's most talked−about works is this book. He explains that the Oedipus complex may be traced back to repressed desires hidden behind symbolic dreams. Eight times he went back and changed things.

Psychopathology of Everyday Life − This 20th−century classic explores the causes and treatments for linguistic problems such as word-switching, tripping over one's tongue, and blunders in conversation. In a nutshell, this book offers a handy reference to the fields of semantics, languages, and philosophy.


Freud was probably the first person who proposed a different way to describe the human personality and invented a convincing therapy to treat people suffering from mental disorders. So, no matter how his views are viewed now, Sigmund Freud had a significant effect on the area of psychology. Many of his followers and even some other schools of psychology use his methods of treatment while treating patients.

Updated on: 05-Apr-2023


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