The Psychiatrists analysis of Josef Fritzl

Adelheid Kastner, in her psychiatric evaluation before to the legal trial, determines that he has a major sexual disorder as well as a severe mixed personality disorder. The current issue includes an overwhelming desire to exercise power, including the desire to dominate, control, and possess another person; violent sexual fantasies involving death; rape; and dominance; a serial rapist who raped two women and his biological daughter; repeated exposure to indecent images of women in public; and more.


The case is examined using the biopsychosocial model, and it appears that the psychoanalytic perspective is the most appropriate way to approach the problem.  This school, founded by Sigmund Freud and based on his observations of his clients, holds that the unconscious, which includes repressed memories of traumatic life events from childhood, is the primary source of all conflict. The unconscious contains all undesirable feelings, desires, and thoughts. These desires cause anxiety and a host of other psychological issues when they pose a threat of becoming conscious. Modern psychotherapy, which entails assisting the client in developing insight into his or her behaviours, is mostly based on psychoanalysis, the theory and therapy based on Freud’s theories.

Joseph Fritzl’s misbehaviour was a result of his difficult upbringing, which included a mother who did not love him, who frequently beat him and left him alone for long periods of time. He consequently acquired an ambivalent attachment style towards his mother, which had additional effects on his relationships as an adult. Fritzl’s children were never able to build a strong bond with him, and he conducted his home like a military boot camp, insisting that they address him as “sir” at all times and frequently hitting them. He raised his kids in the same manner in which he was brought up. He felt the need to make up for the years that his mother had oppressed him, and he satisfied that urge by raping women in addition to controlling and dominating his wife and kids. Additionally, because of his violent mother, he was genetically inclined to seeing and behaving abusively.  Aside from this, his early life was tormented and haunted by a terrible social context to relate to, meaning he might have displayed a lack of respect or even a tad of ignorance for the feelings and attitudes of others. Additionally, one significant event occurred when his urinary tract infection went untreated for a protracted length of time due to a lack of money. As a result, he began to feel helpless and grow angry with his mother.

He also grew to hate his father and to worship and love his mother as a result of the absence of a father figure (his father was kicked out of the family by the mother) in his youth. He started to have an Oedipus complex towards his mother. Sigmund Freud (1899) coined the term “Oedipal complex” to refer to a child’s feelings of yearning for his or her opposite-sex parent and of envy and resentment against his or her same-sex parent. However, the absence of a father figure prevented the development of a mature sexual identity, which would have resulted from successfully completing the stage of identifying with the same-sex parent. He became “mother-fixated” as a result of his fixation on the stage. Since Elizabeth reminded him of his mother, perhaps this was a significant role in him choosing to rape her rather than any of his other children. If she ever ventured to wear makeup or attire that he deemed to be sexually provocative, he would savagely punish her and he was possessive of her. The way his mother had raised him, he had treated her in the same way. There was also a noticeable displacement onto Elizabeth. Despite his love and sexual attraction for his mother, Fritzl harboured bitter feelings for her as a result of her ongoing mistreatment and violence. He nevertheless forced his unfavourable emotions into his unconsciousness because of his strong love and societal expectations. He employed displacement (Freud, 1936) as a coping strategy to deal with the ensuing anxiety, using Elizabeth as a stand-in for the mother. He projected his sexual and racial rage onto Elizabeth because he knew she couldn’t resist.

As a result, his ongoing sexual inclinations served as a motivating element for him. He had continued to express his repressed emotions primarily through violent sex. He experienced a sense of authority and power via raping women, which were previously lacking in his life. He was able to satisfy his violent and deviant sexual needs by locking Elizabeth in the cellar and raping her there without having to worry about consequences.

However, he employed repression as a defence mechanism to shield himself from the harmful elements (Freud, 1936). Repression is a subconscious strategy used by the ego to prevent unsettling or dangerous thoughts from entering consciousness. The kinds of thoughts that might make the superego feel guilty are frequently suppressed. In this instance, as stated by Adelheid Kastner, he developed coping mechanisms to learn to deal with life, such as “pushing his feelings into the cellar of his soul”. She explained that he had “much of the volcano about him” and that sex abuse had been the major way he had let out his suppressed emotions. He was able to operate effectively in society and even had positive relationships with his neighbours as a result. His excellent physical condition also helped with this.

Finally, it is recommended that Fritzl undergo psychoanalytic therapy in order to gain insight into his deeply hidden thoughts and repressed experiences and emotions from his abusive and traumatic childhood that can be brought to the surface and examined. This is based on the symptomology as well as analysis. Techniques include free association, dream analysis, transference analysis, and others.

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