Home » Uncategorized » The Hidden Truth About Anna O’s Recovery

The Hidden Truth About Anna O’s Recovery

The origin of psychological distress and mental illness is complex and varied. Biochemical, physical, environmental, and social factors can all play a role. But the vast majority of mental health complaints women present with—depression, anxiety disorders, body image and eating disorders, and trauma—are most often directly and primarily caused by patriarchal abuse.”

[…] “The story of Anna O’s recovery, and of every woman’s potential for recovery from psychological distress, has not been accidentally lost. It’s been deliberately hidden by patriarchy. It does not suit patriarchy for Bertha Pappenheim’s recovery story to see the light of day, because it calls into question the effectiveness of patriarchal therapy; it illuminates the truth that patriarchal therapy is designed to alleviate women’s symptoms just enough to keep us compliant and subservient.”


Students of psychology invariably encounter the story of Anna O at some point in classes or textbooks. Anna O, whose real name was Bertha Pappenheim, was a patient of Josef Breuer, a close colleague of Sigmund Freud. Her treatment provided the foundation for psychoanalytic interventions and, eventually, psychoanalytic theory. Her case study was published in Studies in Hysteria, a collaborative effort between Breuer and Freud.

Rather than a passive patient merely receiving treatment, Bertha Pappenheim took an active role in shaping her treatment. But this is part of the story that is usually either downplayed or ignored. Breuer’s primary intervention, at first, was hypnosis. When she decided it wasn’t working to her satisfaction, Pappenheim suggested she instead talk through her problems, saying whatever was on her mind. She used terms for this like “chimney sweeping” and “talking cure,” but just as her initiative has been downplayed, her language has been…

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