Upload Assignment: Psychoanalytic Views of Anxiety

In part one of your textbook, several psychoanalytic views of anxiety are explored.  For this assignment, you are to write a paper on the role that anxiety plays in the development and maintenance of personality from a psychoanalytic perspective.  For example, you may wish to explore Karen Horney’s theory of anxiety and neurosis and how this contributes to personality.  Or, you might want to consider Freud’s views of anxiety and it’s role in ego functioning.  Your paper should be a minimum of three pages of text, excluding the Title and Reference page.
Use at least three peer-reviewed, academic citations (i.e., academic journal articles found on PsycINFO or academic textbooks found at CBU’s library).  NO website citations allowed. (e.g., Wikipedia or



Freud’s Theory on Anxiety and Personality

The human personality develops as a result of accumulated early childhood experiences. An adult’s personality shapes up depending on how the mind processes these memories and experiences in the developmental stages. Sigmund Freud offered a psychoanalytic theory regarding the development of personality. He is widely considered as the pioneer of psychodynamic approaches to psychology that focus on the drives that unconsciously motivate human beings to behave in certain manners. Freud suggested that the human personality can be structured into three parts: ego, the id, and the superego. According to Freud, anxiety is necessary for the development and maintenance of personality mainly because it is a threat to the ego (Schultz, 2013).

Anxiety is an objectless fear, implying that it is impossible to identify its source or causative agent (Arbiser, Schneider & Saragnano, 2013). Anxiety is an essential aspect of Freud’s personality theory since it is important in the development of both psychotic and neurotic behavior. Freud theorized that anxiety is an epitome of birth trauma. This is because the fetus enjoys the most secure and stable environment inside the mother’s womb. However, it is born into an unfriendly environment that demands adaptation since instinctual needs are not fulfilled as effectively as in the womb. This, according to Freud, is the primary source of anxiety.

Freud further distinguished three types of anxieties, with reference to the personality structure they affect. These types are reality anxiety, moral anxiety and neurotic anxiety (Schultz, 2013). The most basic type, reality anxiety, is related to the ego. It arises from the fear of real, possible outcomes, such as falling from a balcony or being stung by bees. On the other hand, neurotic anxiety arises from an unconscious fear which the primary impulses of the id assume control of contributing to ultimate punishment from the expression of its needs and desires. Moral anxiety is the last type of anxiety proposed by Freud. It arises in the superego as a result of the fear of breaching established moral values. It, therefore, manifests itself as guilt and shame.

The most conspicuous way in which anxiety influences the development and maintenance of personality is when the human body develops defense mechanisms (Videbeck, 2010). People develop defense mechanisms so that they have a favorable opinion about themselves. Defense mechanisms defend the human being from the unfavorable event that arouses anxiety in them. The ego develops an ability to safeguard itself from unfavorable internal impulses. Defense mechanisms, however, falsify or distort reality and hence alter a person’s personality. Freud identified ten defense mechanisms that are responsible for influencing a person’s personality.

The first defense mechanism is denial. A human mind may repress the fact that a traumatic event or an external threat has occurred. Denial of a certain fact often develops into a habitual trait. Displacement, on the other hand, refers to a defense mechanism that results in a person shifting impulses to an alternative, less threatening object. A person may also change their behavior by forfending disagreeable emotions towards more intellectual aspects, a phenomenon referred to as intellectualization(Arbiser, Schneider & Saragnano, 2013). Human behavior is also influenced when a person projects their uncomfortable emotions to other people as a means of defense.

Additionally, Freud identified rationalization, reaction formation and regression as further defense mechanisms against anxiety that often alter a person’s personality(Schultz, 2013). Rationalization occurs when an anxious person develops a fictitious but believable explanation for the event to eschew the harsh reality. Reaction formation, in comparison, refers to the action of embracing a diametric belief since the genuine belief arouses anxiety. Regression refers to a defense mechanism that entails retreating into an earlier phase of life and development which had happier and more pleasant experiences as compared to the frustration and anxiety being experienced currently. This implies that a person takes up the personality he/she had at that period of life.

Repression, suppression and sublimation are the final defense mechanisms against anxiety that lead to personality development or maintenance (Gemes, 2009). Repression refers to the aspect of forcing anxious thoughts from the conscious mind while suppression refers to the intentional pushing of unwanted emotions from a person’s awareness. This leads to the evolvement of the human personality since the human mind is frequently conditioned to avoid the real issues that affect the person and/or his character. Alternatively, a person may divert unacceptable impulses into socially acceptable practices. An example is a musician who represents drunkenness in acceptable music. These defenses may be conscious or unconscious and are natural and normal.

This psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund theory satisfactorily depicts how anxiety can alter, develop or maintain a person’s personality. Most commonly, anxiety leads to the development of defense mechanisms that aid the victim in dealing with these stresses. These defenses, according to Brandes& Bienvenu(2006), are natural, without which a person may develop anxiety disorders, phobias and obsessions. These are the extreme, unnatural and unhealthy resultants of anxiety on a person’s personality. Nonetheless, each of reality, moral and neurotic anxieties influence the development of the human personality in constructive or unconstructive ways depending on the event being countered.




Arbiser, S., Schneider, J., & Saragnano, G. (2013). On Freud’s “Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety”. London: Karnac Books.

Brandes, M., & Bienvenu, O. J. (2006). Personality and anxiety disorders. Current psychiatry reports8(4), 263-269.

Gemes, K. (2009). Freud and Nietzsche on sublimation. The Journal of Nietzsche Studies38(1), 38-59.

Schultz, D. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Videbeck, S. L. (2010). Psychiatric-mental health nursing. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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