The psychodynamic approach assumes that mental health issues can be resolved by psychoanalysis. Various psychoanalytic methods can be used to bring repressed feelings into conscious awareness where they can be dealt with. The concept of defence mechanisms suggests that the displacement of unconscious anxiety onto harmless external objects can be used as a coping mechanism by some. Freud believed that sexual fears within the id were repressed; leaving the person with an irrational fear that had no conscious explanation.
This may help us to understand the occurrences of phobias. An example of this is the case study of Little Han’s which was used in support when Freud theorised that whilst in the phallic stage of development Han’s suffered from the Oedipus complex with regard to his father, and displaced this onto a fear of horses. The difficulty with case studies is that there is little empirical evidence in their support and therefore the behaviourist’s explanation of classical conditioning, that if you see a horse fall it may be enough to engender fear, could be just as reasonable a theory.
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Within the psychoanalytical approach psychoanalysis may include dream therapy, the discussion of symbols within dreams, leading to discussion of their interpretation and therefore the resolution of the initial anxiety. The explanation of anorexia nervosa, the prolonged and deliberate self denial of calorie intake leading to the loss of the majority of body fat to an extreme degree, loss of menstrual cycle and distorted body image, calls to the fore object relations theory.
This model suggests that there is an unconscious psychosexual immaturity leading to an effort to remain pre-pubesant, that an early traumatic experience is regressed and later expressed via the eating disorder. Bruch suggested a number of years later that there is mutual gain for mother and daughter within this model. Seeking proof of this theory is also problematical as there is little scope for objective research. Conversely the social learning theory states that such behaviour learned.
Bandura suggests that it is a Western cultural disorder and evidence for this derives from the increase in the incidence of this disorder in the last 50 years. A method of psychoanalytical treatment may take the form free association. Additionally the concept of childhood experience, in particular traumatic experiences, is relevant in the understanding of anorexia nervosa, stating that there is a fear of oral impregnation, that is to say, an unconscious belief that eating can lead to pregnancy. The difficulty with this and other psychodynamic theories hypothesis is that they do not explain anorexia nervosa in males or indeed in adults.
Another possibility is the biological approach which suggests that this disorder has a physical origin and should be treated as such. If you take the psychodynamic stance, then a possible therapy method could be transference, the redirection of anger from self to the therapist for analysis. Although Freud has received many criticisms for his approach in psychology, he has contributed greatly to providing a better understanding of mental health issues and subsequently a more sympathetic and effective treatment of people with mental illness.