March 29, 2017

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By Cheryl Winning Ghinassi

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Working independently, Joseph Wolpe (1915–1997) and Hans Eysenck (1916–1997) both dismissed Dollard and Miller’s incorporation of psychoanalytic theory into behavioral theory and rejected the notion of conflicting drives. Wolpe and Eysenck proposed that an innate, physiological vulnerability to anxiety explained the development of an anxiety disorder or other mental illness. They believed that when a patient who suffered from anxiety sensitivity later experienced intense anxiety that became associated with a perceived actual or not-actual threat, then that patient would develop a mental disorder, specifically anxiety or phobias.

The scientists concluded that the cure for hysteria was to unblock repressed feelings. Breuer found this work to be too intense and took issue with Freud’s emphasis on sexual memories; he eventually pulled out of the collaboration. Many of Freud’s contemporaries strongly disagreed with his emphasis on childhood sexuality, and his dogmatic approach alienated many scholars, although he undoubtedly deserves credit for organizing the thinking of his predecessors into a coherent theory. However, since the unconscious is not observable, Freud’s theory was based more on speculation than empirical science.

Avicenna and another Islamic physician of this era, Ishaq ibn Amram, both described melancholy (depression) in a manner that is very familiar to us today. Not only did Avicenna describe the melancholic person as irritable (a symptom shared with anxiety), but he also identified exaggerated fearfulness as a common personality trait. Ishaq ibn Amram acknowledged agitation, worry, and anxiety as symptoms of melancholy. An Emerging Light Fortunately, as the Middle Ages progressed, there were gradual gains in philosophy and scholarship throughout Europe.

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