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August 1977

Countersymbiotic Suicide

Author Affiliations

From the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, New York (Dr Rachlin), the Bronx Psychiatric Center, Bronx, NY (Ms Milton and Dr Pam), the Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York (Dr Rachlin), the Hunter College School of Social Work, New York (Ms Milton), and the Department of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY (Dr Pam).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1977;34(8):965-967. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1977.01770200103014

• In the course of studying the outcome of treatment for severely disturbed schizophrenics on a special ward, the authors encountered three instances of suicide with many features in common. All three cases involved young Hispanic male patients who demonstrated pathologically symbiotic relationships with their mothers. None had a history of overt suicide attempts prior to their actual death by jumping. These incidents occurred while the patients were en route to, or at, the maternal home on an unauthorized leave from the hospital. We present the case histories and offer a dynamic interpretation. In each case, it is likely that the underlying desire was to kill the mother. This either was not permissible or, alternatively, the patients' ego boundaries were not sufficiently clear to permit differentiation of self and mother. The patients saw any attempt, short of suicide, to loosen the symbiotic bond as being futile, hence, our terminology of the event as "countersymbiotic suicide."

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