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Pierre Janet on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (1903) Review and Commentary

Roger K. Pitman, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1987;44(3):226-232. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1987.01800150032005.
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• Pierre Janet's classic contribution to the understanding of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Obsessions and Psychasthenia (1903), remains untranslated as well as unappreciated by American psychiatry, despite increasing recognition of the importance of this mental health problem. Herein the work is summarized and discussed. Although it tends to be remembered for its theoretical ideas, most of which have become dated, the most valuable aspect of Obsessions and Psychasthenia is its clinical discoveries. These include the important role played in the disorder by symptoms that are closely related to, but yet cannot properly be called, obsessions and compulsions (the "forced agitations"); the underlying psychasthenic mental state; and the obsessive-compulsive person's specific failure to adapt to reality. Despite the passage of nearly a century, these observations, and Janet's suggestions regarding treatment, are as timely now as when they were made.


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