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Feminity, sexuality and childhood: Sources of the nervous self

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Chapter Summary

By the end of the 1880s, Swedish middle-class women were infected by the diagnostic virus of hysteria, which European nerve doctors commonly regarded as a female malady. As we can see, hysteria was a predominantly female malady, while neurasthenia was much less gender-specific. Of all neurotic patients, women were in the majority, but there were also a considerable number of men among the neurotics. Based on an examination of patient records and published sources, this chapter highlights that, with regard to nervous illnesses, there was no sharp gender discrimination in Sweden. Next, the chapter turns to the other main source of nervousness: sexuality. One significant component in neurosis throughout the Age of Nervousness was sexuality. In addition to the moderate application of psychoanalytic methods at the Erica Foundation, there were also advocates of a more radical, Reich-inspired psychoanalytic approach to child therapy.

Keywords: child therapy; feminity; hysteria; neurasthenia; psychoanalytic methods; sexuality



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