Archives par mot-clé : Manic defenses

Thomas F. Barrett : Manic Defenses against Loneliness in Adolescence

In this paper I highlight the particular challenges faced by adolescents in their efforts to accomplish object removal. This is a protracted, conflict-laden process even in relatively healthy individuals that leads to an intolerable internal state triggered by the feeling of object loss. Loneliness in adolescence results, not from the withdrawal of love by the object but from a developmentally compelled process within the adolescent to gradually remove and transfer libidinal cathexes from primary objects to new adult relationships. Associated with this process is the deep feeling of “emptiness” felt by many teenagers during this phase. The defenses employed to fill up this emptiness are manic in character and may include the compulsive acquisition of substitute objects (e.g. music downloaded from the Internet, video games, food, clothes, shoes, etc.) and the excessive use of alcohol, drugs, and cigarette smoking. All of these defenses suggest an orally based, regressive, primary process attempt (often cyclical in a “taking-in” and “expelling” fashion) to transform depression and loneliness into elation and to find respite in pursuits based on the pleasure principle. I will further add that, while the reasons are complex, such loneliness is among the myriad factors that contribute to promiscuous sexual activity, eating disorders, and symptoms of cutting or self-hurting.

Adolescence, T. 31 n°1, pp. 195-216.