Regression (psychology)

Regression within the psychoanalytic theory describes a psychological defense mechanism. With the aim of driving pulse - defense or coping with anxiety a temporary retreat to an earlier stage of development in the personality development with simpler, more primitive reactions and usually takes place also claim lower level. Examples of regressive behavior patterns are tearfulness, withdrawal, flight into illness, despite behavior and appetite.

Like all defenses running regression - in relation to the causative problem - mostly unconsciously and serves to stabilize the mental equilibrium. In this sense, it is not dysfunctional, but part of the capacity for self- control.

Development of the concept

The term of the regression was introduced by Sigmund Freud in the psychoanalytic practice and was closely linked to the psychopathological manifestations described by him and of psychosexual development ( such as libido, instinct theory ). The term of the regression is in Freud for the " inclination of the libido in the case of non- genital gratification or real difficulties in the earlier pregenital occupations return ".

The Freud -student Kurt Lewin added the following: " His theory of the stages of libido organization that divides the development of the individual is based largely on observations of the regression in the field of psychopathology ."

Anna Freud describes regression in her seminal work The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence, together with ten other defense mechanisms, all of which are used in more or less sensible to pathological way of processing internal conflicts.

The psychoanalyst Michael Balint regression analyzes for the first time as a coping mechanism, which is a useful self-regulation. In parallel, the relationship between patient and therapist with their "healing " aspects will also be clearly highlighted. Then regression is considered as a therapeutic moment, be taken into account in the essential components of the interactive relationship between patient and therapist. Thus, the regression term of Balint differs also be applied therapy not only relevant content from the originally used by Freud concept, but can.

Reinhart Lempp Also tried a significantly positive approach to the phenomenon of regression to produce: it describes regression as almost everyday, often only short -lasting behavior that protects people from the impositions of the present and his self-doubt at times and gives him opportunities of the through breathing ..


By results of recent infant research is the concept of regression, so as understood by psychoanalysis, seen increasingly critical, and regarded as untenable. Criticism of the term regression is associated with the critique of the psychoanalytic model of development.

Gestalt therapy practiced early criticism of the regression term. Fritz Perls assumes that a patient does not fall back to an earlier stage of its development, but only reveals another side of his personality. The present shape treatment defined regression as " (temporary or long-term ) limitation in the current possibility of a person to realize all once already acquired skills according to his wish. Such restrictions may relate to both earlier and later acquired skills. "

See also

  • Defense mechanism
  • Self-regulation ( Psychology )