Autism & Psychoanalysis

See also:    Bruno Bettelheim    Autism: History & Myths   

In recent years, psychoanalytic interpretations of autism have been largely superceded by cognitive and neuropsychological approaches. However, psychoanalytic thinking is still popular in Europe, and also exerts a limited influence in the writings of certain theorists in Great Britain and the United States.

Internet Resources

In the present work, I deepen the examination of the processes that occur in the analyst's mind, when he is subjected to the impact of manifestations of the primitive mind, more specifically, autistic states.
Celia Fix Korbivcher
Autism is not a condition that can be approached with either classical or modified psychoanalysis.
American Psychoanalytic Association
The therapeutic task is... gradually to draw the child away from the barren and stultifying, but nevertheless safe world that he or she has created, into a world in which relationships, rather than meaningless rituals and totems, are what sustain life.
Mervi-Marja Mero
Apropos of autism, Lacan, in 1975, in a lecture on symptom, says that if autists do not hear, it is because they are listening to themselves.
Yasmine Grasser
Scientific research in psychoanalysis: what is psychic illness, what are its causes, how does it manifest itself, what are its effects on parents with psychotic children, what are the means of prevention and conditions for regaining mental health.
Vittorio Volpi
Jung described projection as leading to a dream-like experience of the world... they lead to an auto-erotic or autistic condition in which one dreams a world whose reality remains forever unattainable.
David R. Loy
Autism was presumably diagnosed because of the sustained silence of the child during individual psychotherapeutic sessions. To avoid further collusions in "eliciting autism", we indirectly treated the child by seeing only the parents. The root of the treatment was the reframing of the diagnosis. We created in the parents the new prophecy of an obsessive-compulsive disorder: from a no way out labyrinth, to a new labyrinth with an Arianna's thread.
Alessandro Bartoletti, Giorgio Nardone
It is important to establish the conditions which allow for the possibility of the child to come out of the autistic state of mind and to enter into a post autistic stage and later set in place a process of development.
F. Scabbiolo
At the end, the subject can experience not only a pacification and a new social bond, but also how to smile. As for us, we discover a taste for a new knowledge, one to which these subjects give us access.
Virginio Baio
Meltzer and colleagues have drawn on the inner world of autistic patients to illuminate the norm; Frances Tustin has essayed on autistic phenomena in neurotic patients, while Sydney Klein has described 'autistic cysts' in neurotic patients.
Robert M. Young
The extent to which apprehension and communication of experience is not socially congruent is referred to (by Sullivan) as autism.
James D. Huycke
Psychol Bull. 1970 May;73(5):350-62
A.J. Ward
Tics are the result of impulsive and oppositional defending the partial breakthrough into the somatic realm of forbidden, unreleased impulses. Sexual impulses emanating from the core turn to rage when blocked by armor.
Alberto Foglia
There are strong indications that many autists suffer primarily from an emotional disturbance, from a form of anxiety neurosis, which prevents or retards normal affiliation and subsequent socialisation, and this in its turn hampers development of speech..
Niko Tinbergen
Roland Kuhn, Charles H. Cahn
Freud can be read today in light of the current analytic experience, which is connected to two recent developments, what I have called "the new illnesses of the soul" ranging from autism to psychosomatic affections... and other narcissistic disturbances.
Julia Kristeva
Int J Group Psychother. 1964 Jul;14:360-5
W.M. Lordi et al
Literature review of psychoanalytic perspective on narcissism. Discusses the ideas of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, W.R.D. Fairbairn, D.W. Winnicott, Fritz Redl, Frances Tustin, Bruno Bettelheim, J.P. Hommes.
The basic thesis of this article is that the notion of a psychogenic autistic barrier should be encompassed in understanding and describing the elements of the group matrix... Ever since Bleuler's definition, autism has been connected with the basic psychopathological characteristics of a schizophrenic process or psychotic functioning. Autistic thinking is defined as arising from fantasy.
Ivan Urlic
This article is an attempt at getting a better understanding of the dynamics of pathology, and the conditions for change, in psychoanalytic psychotherapy with children characterised by deadness in object relations.
Helge Holgersen, Per-Einar Binder
Language drawn from work with autistic patients includes dread of falling apart, falling infinitely, spilling away, exploding away, threat of total annihilation, unintegration, experiencing a missing person as a hole.
Robert M. Young
Psychoanalysis started early in this century and has developed through various methods, and especially clinical approaches leading progressively more and more information on the unconscious intelligence, relationship and affective processes.
"Without the mother's serving as container for the infant's projective identifications, the infant would be doomed to an autistic or psychotic existence." (quoting T.H. Ogden)
Simon Clarke
The heart of autism lies in the absence of an ideal, not in the enjoyment by the self of a multiplicity of simple pleasures.
Paul Rosenfels
Even though the psychoanalytic approach on understanding autism is no more in fashion, many people still try to push it and it is still the accepted approach in much of Western Europe. Psychoanalysis is not scientific at all.
Seppo Halme
This article reports insights into autism developed through the authors' extensive experience of psychoanalytic therapy with autistic children. The first stages of body psychic development are seriously disrupted by this pathology, resulting in primitive anxieties of falling and of being liquefied. These anxieties are connected to the fragile development of body ego and of its related spatiotemporal organisation
Genevieve Haag
...there is persistant denial by American society of the causes of damage to millions of children who are thus traumatized and brain damaged as a consequense of cruel treatment by parents who are otherwise too busy to love and care for their babies.
In light of readings given by Lacan's students, certain of those who had been pinned with the labels of idiocy and mental retardation, were seen to have troubles stemming from the clinical structure of psychosis.
Jean Francois Cottes
Hector writes that I am "describing the inner world of a deeply disturbed person". High-functioning autism and AS are not "deep disturbances" -- they are disabilities with a biological cause.
Gunilla Gerland
Bettleheim's comparison of the autistic child to the survivor of the concentration camps was at the heart of his analysis. The child withdraws into himself as a defense mechanism against his tormentors, i.e., his parents.
Skeptic's Dictionary
The autistic series is the type of disorders when the first imprint, vitalisation, has not been had, and the child is unborn, or has regressed to a prenatal stage, the child is born, vitalised but shelled in, or has regressed to a previtalisation stage...
Jean-Michel Fitremann
The emotional atmosphere when the analyst faces autistic states is that of absence of affective life, which causes a high level of anguish in his mind. The analyst remains isolated, facing a state of affective emptiness.
Celia Fix
The title for the paper comes from T. S. Eliot's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' (Eliot, 1948). In the poem, Prufrock, an isolated person, describes the pain of relating, of miscommunication. 'That is not it at all, that is not what I meant at all.' The possibility of sharing love is not available. He feels defeated. The closing off of the self, either partially or totally, is diametrically opposed to the challenge of group relationships, which require the interaction and interpenetration of many selves. This paper explores the implications for groups.
Wil Pennycook-Greaves

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