Freud’s philosophy on the treatment of psychological disorders was focused on the psychodynamic theory, or psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is considered to be “…the most comprehensive theory yet constructed on the development and structure of our personalities” (Barlow & Durand, 2009, p. 17). Psychoanalysis is based on the theory that there are no accidental behaviors, but that all of them are based on past experiences (Comer, 2007). Freud began his work on the psychodynamic model with Josef Breuer, starting with hypnosis and hysteria. Hysteria is an illness which seems to have no medical cause yet can produce tragic symptoms. For example, Breuer worked with a woman named Anna O. who experienced paralysis, disorganized speech, and deafness (Comer, 2007).
Freud’s psychoanalytical theory is based on normal and abnormal behaviors and how to treat them. When determining what shapes a person’s personality, Freud believed that there were three major factors “…instinctual needs, rational thinking, and moral standards” (Comer, 2007, p. 55). He theorized that these forces were in the unconscious level and could not be brought forth by a conscious decision to. These three factors were the id, the ego, and the superego. The id contains the instinctual needs, the ego contains the rational thinking, and the superego contains the moral standards (Comer, 2007).
Furthermore, at each stage of development in life the id, ego, and superego went through adjustments as well. Should the development go smoothly, the person can move on to the next stage. If not, the person may become fixated at the current stage in inhibit further development (Comer, 2007). These stages were associated with what Freud considered to be the most important body zone at the age, those being the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages (Comer, 2007). In addition, Freud believed the ego would be under stress from the demands put upon it and he created 3 forms of anxiety. Objective anxiety is how a person would normally react if faced with a threatening situation. Neurotic anxiety is the fear that the impulses controlled by the id would become out of control. Lastly, moral anxiety covers feelings of shame and guilt (Goodwin, 2008). These feelings of anxiety were dealt with by the person using defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms included repression, projection, reaction formation, and sublimation (Goodwin, 2008). Combined together, this was the foundation for the psychoanalytical theory.