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The concept of affect phobia is an aspect of psychoanalytic theory. It is a cornerstone of psychoanalysis that psychodynamic conflict can be centred on a fear of feeling or affect phobia. These fears which may be conscious or unconscious are thought to underly many symptoms that people bring to therapy. [1] Examples include[2]:

  • Guilt over anger
  • Embarassment about crying
  • Pain over closeness
  • Shame about oneself

Development of the concept

Freud[3] hypothesized that neuroses were the result of the analysand's attempts to stave of aversive unconscious experiences. As psychoanalytic theory developed it was thought that defense mechanisms were developed to protect the self and avoid the painful effects of the anxiety that the surfacing of these emotions triggered.

See also


  1. McCullough, L., Kuhn, N., Andrews, S., Kaplan, A., Wolf,J. & Hurley, C.L. (2003) Treating affect phobia:A manual for short-term dynamic psychotherapy. New York:Guildford Press.
  2. McCullough, L. & McGill, M. (2009). Affect-focused Short-term Dynamic Therapy. In R.A.Levy & J.S. Ablon (eds) Handbook of Evidenced-Based Psychodynamic Psychotherapy.Humana Press.
  3. Freud S. (1956). Turnings in the ways of psychoanalytic therapy. In E.Kones (ed) Collected papers. Vol 2. London:Hogarth Press