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August 1971

The Hysterical Character in Psychoanalytic TheoryEvolution and Confusion

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University Medical School, Boston.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971;25(2):131-137. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1971.01750140035007

The concept of the hysterical character in psychoanalytic theory is a source of widespread confusion both to general psychiatrists and to psychoanalysts. This communication attempts to clarify the concept by reviewing its evolution. Special attention is paid to the changing theories (and methods) within psychoanalysis itself which have led to the varying observations and formulations. It is felt that the current psychoanalytic understanding of the hysterical character is descriptively rich and clinically valuable. Nevertheless, because of semantic difficulties, confusion persists.