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In psychoanalysis, decathexis is the withdrawal of cathexis from an idea or instinctual object.[1]

Decathexis is the process of dis-investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.[2]


In narcissistic neurosis, cathexis is withdrawn from external instinctual objects (or rather their unconscious representations)[3] and turned on the ego - a process Freud highlighted in the Schreber case, and linked to the subject's ensuing megalomania.[4]

A similar decathexis of energy has been linked to the emergence of symptoms of hypochondriasis,[5] as well as of melancholia.[6]

André Green saw decathexis as the product of the death drive, blanking out the possibility of thinking by a process of what he called de-objectilizing.[7]


Decathexis of the lost person in grief was seen as a regular part of the mourning process by Freud, although later analysts have argued that such decathexis was rather the result of inhibited or partial mourning, not of successful mourning.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Denis, 'Decathexis'
  2. ^ Hall, Calvin S. A Primer of Freudian Psychology. New York: Mentor, 1954.
  3. ^ J-M Quinodoz, Reading Freud (2005) p. 145
  4. ^ Sigmund Freud, Case Histories II (PFL 9) p. 208-11
  5. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 262
  6. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) p. 266-7
  7. ^ J-M Quinodoz, Reading Freud (2005) p. 134
  8. ^ Lora H. Tessman, The Analyst's Analyst Within (2003) p. 236-7

External links[edit]

  • Furman, R. A; Furman, E (1984). "Intermittent decathexis--a type of parental dysfunction". The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. 65 ( Pt 4): 423–33. PMID 6544753.