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Psychoanalytic theories of suicide: Historical overview and empirical evidence 

Psychoanalytic theories of suicide: Historical overview and empirical evidence
Psychoanalytic theories of suicide: Historical overview and empirical evidence

Elsa Ronningstam

, Igor Weinberg

, and John T Maltsberger

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date: 05 July 2022

Psychoanalytic theories and studies have influenced the explorations of suicide over the past hundred years. Freud’s first observations of self-objectification in melancholic depression were followed by contributions from object relation theorists and self-psychologists, highlighting foremost the role of narcissistic rage and structural vulnerability. Several of the central clinical concepts that unfolded have more recently been subject to empirical testing. This chapter provides an overview and discussion of the different psychoanalytic formulations applied to suicide. Empirical studies of several assumptions and constructs related to emotions, defences, and structural deficits and vulnerabilities verify their association to or explanation of chronic and acute suicidality. Further conceptualizations and research, especially on subtypes of suicide and individual experiences leading up to and dominating suicidal states, are called for.

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