Conditions misinterpreted as mental disorder - 2: Oedipus complex

Conditions misinterpreted as mental disorder – 2: Oedipus complex

Mental disorders are frequently misunderstood. For majority of the people, suffering from any kind of mental disorder is equivalent to retardation. While the status of overall mental healthcare facilities is poor, people themselves shy away from seeking medical help for their mental illness, primarily due to the prevailing stigmas, misconceptions and fears.

Another problem with mental disorders is that they are often misdiagnosed. It is because most of the symptoms of different types of mental illness are same or similar. This, coupled with lack of knowledge and information, leads to misdiagnosis and wrong treatment. Consequently, the problem either aggravates or results in development of another severe health hazard.

Besides, owing to rigid beliefs and strict parameters, society tends to relate any unusual behavior or pattern of lifestyle to consequences of some mental health issues. For instance, autism, which is basically a development disorder due to neurological condition, is often perceived as a mental illness. The series, ‘Conditions misinterpreted as mental disorder,’ talks about such conditions. This article deals with one such condition called the “Oedipus complex” which is often mistaken as a mental disorder.

Unresolved childhood conflicts may trigger Oedipus complex

Oedipus complex is a term given to the illicit affection of a son towards his mother. The term took birth from Sophocles’ ‘Oedipus Rex,’ an ancient play that has enthralled readers and audiences for centuries. The play showcased the son’s desire to possess his mother and eliminate his father. Although the interpretation of Oedipus complex in the play is debatable, the society perceives anybody suffering from the complex to be mentally ill.

Notably, the condition is not restricted to the sons only, but equally exists in case of a daughter. The daughter’s lustrous desire to possess her father and take the place of her mother is known as Electra complex. Experts believe such behavior comes under the umbrella of incest.

Oedipus complex was first explained by Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis who made an effort to understand the reason behind development of the complex. According to Freud, Oedipus complex is a psychoanalytic edifice and occurs due to the abnormalities and imbalances in childhood. He further believed that the mental illness arises from unresolved conscious conflicts that occur in early childhood.

Freud’s explanation of Oedipus complex

Explaining the theory of Oedipus complex, Freud stated that the onset of this disorder is visible among children between 3 and 5 years. According to him, this is the stage when a child tends to experience an erotic attachment to one parent and hostility toward the other parent. This attachment further becomes the root cause of several mental disorders including Oedipus complex.

Therefore, during the stage, “if previous relationships with the parents were relatively loving and nontraumatic, and if parental attitudes were neither excessively prohibitive nor excessively stimulating, the stage is passed through harmoniously,” quoted Britannica in explaining Freud’s interpretation of Oedipus complex.

Freud further states that Oedipus complex takes break when the child enters the latency period where he is more concerned about forming social relations and status. However, he faces the resolution of complex after puberty and substitutes it through other objects of love. Freud concluded that “Oedipus complex continues to be an unconscious organizer throughout life. It also forms an indissoluble link between wish and law.”

Road to recovery

Freud’s concept of Oedipus complex has disappeared from the field of psychotherapy over time. This implies that regarding the complex as a mental illness does not exist anymore. It shows a trend that the society is moving away from defining mental illness in terms of its psychological and emotional roots. Instead, mental illnesses are medically viewed with their emphasis on diagnostic categories.

If you or a loved one is suffering from any kind of mental illness, contact the California Mental Health Help to know about mental health facilities in California. You may call our 24/7 helpline number (855) 559-3923 or chat online with our representatives who can guide you to one of the best mental health centers in California.

Read the other articles of the series “Conditions misinterpreted as mental disorder:”

  1. Homosexuality
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