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From the Couch to the Deathbed

In many Western countries, going to a psychiatrist for therapy and counseling is well-accepted as a means to maintain mental and emotional health. For most patients, the psychiatrist is considered a source of calmness, reason, and understanding. Seen as a professional counselor who possess the right knowledge and skills about handling life problems and personal conflicts, the psychiatrist is often seen as the “last straw” of an emotionally disturbed and desperate patient. However, not too many people see psychiatrists as normal people who also encounter difficulties and struggles in life. In truth, at the very core, they are also vulnerable to pain and frustration. Known as the Father of Psychoanalysis, the famous psychiatrist Sigmund Freud was widely acclaimed for his writings and theories of psychology.

Freud became an instant celebrity in different medical and psychological associations for his theory about the unconscious mind and how he believed that sexual desire was a strong determinant or motive for human though and action. Credited with the such remarkable psychological concepts such as the id, ego, and the superego, Freud became a highly respected yet controversial figure in the European scientific community. Even today, pictures of Freud are used in pop culture are symbols of human intellectual intricacy and discernment. In real life, according to his biographers, Freud also faced stress and anxiety in the same manner that his patients did. After carefully studying his early life, biographers believe that they have unlocked the secret to Freud's own secret fears and frustration, which would later become anchors to his theories.

As a young medical practitioner, Freud dissected hundreds of eels to look for “eel testicles.” At that time, the origins, reproductive processes, and migratory behavior of eels were still mysteries that challenged the scientific community. After failing to locate the reproductive organs of the eels, Freud abandoned his study and chose the another field on which he could pour out his complete devotion as a man of science. His biographers often refer to this time in Freud's life as the starting point for the psychiatrist's focus on human sexuality. In his writings, Freud conveyed his belief that sexual desire was somewhat a “motivational energy for life” and viewed psychosexual development as the explanation for specific human thought and behavior. Aside from his work on psychosexual development, Freud was also concerned about overcoming depression through the use of cocaine. It is not widely known that the psychiatrist was a user of cocaine, a substance that he believed to be useful as a stimulant and cure for depression. Long before antidepressant prescriptions were formulated and sold in pharmacies as doctor-prescribed drugs, Freud was already convinced about the use of chemicals and other drug formulas to address emotional problems. Surely, if he were alive today, Freud's use of cocaine would be frowned upon and will be considered illegal. In fact, recent journals have focused on the correlation between Freud's cocaine use and his preoccupation with sexual desire as motivating factor.

Far from the pop image of the psychiatrist as a stable, rational dispenser of reason and understanding, Freud himself came to a point where he found no more reason to live. Perhaps like many of his patients who came to him out of despair, Freud also reached a point where he thought that no more help was available to him --- whether it was from the field of medicine or psychiatry. On September 23, 1939, Freud asked his doctor-friend to assist him in committing suicide. After almost a lifetime of helping other people deal with their own problems, Freud chose to escape his own troubles through a morphine overdose.


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