picture of journal cover
The case report was published in The Psychoanalytic Quarterly

In 1938, a psychoanalyst named George Goldman published a case report about his treatment of an obsessional patient. NOTE: The following is this website's synopsis, not a quotation.

SYNOPSIS: In 1935, a woman in her late twenties walked into the office of Dr. George Goldman, a young psychoanalyst in New York City. The woman was living with her husband, a radical political activist, and the couple did not have much money, but she was able to pay for psychoanalysis because of financial help from a well-off older sibling. The woman told Dr. Goldman that she had previously operated a small hosiery shop but had felt it necessary to close the shop down because of her obsessions and compulsions.

Dr. Goldman explained: "She had developed an intense fear of becoming contaminated by touching soiled stockings, a fear which spread to countless other objects in her shop, and thence eventually developed into a constant dread of being contaminated by touching the stockings of people in subways. Whenever she could conjure up the remotest possibility of having been soiled or contaminated, she washed and scrubbed for hours. She scrubbed her hands, face and mouth until the skin was sore and red. . . . Her compulsive praying, most severe at bedtime, was designed to protect her family against death. She had evolved a prayer, which she had to repeat over and over, compulsively, for a period varying from a few minutes to an hour. This performance was carried out in a fashion very similar to the handwashing."

Dr. Goldman diagnosed the woman as suffering from "compulsion neurosis." He believed that the roots of her compulsive washing had to do with, in his words, "the relationship of her washing to masturbation, and the fact that her feeling of being dirty was a generalization of the feeling of being dirty at her genitals. . . ."

Dr. Goldman tried to help the woman obtain insight into herself. Sadly perhaps, he refused to encourage her ambition to be a literary author, drawing on his psychoanalytic training to help her see "that her importunate desire to write was an attempt to have a brain child as a substitute for a real child" and that "this drive to have a baby meant also to have a penis." Such insights, his training taught him, would assist in alleviating the inner conflicts at the root of her obsessions and compulsions. Commenting that she was making slow, steady progress in psychoanalysis, Dr. Goldman presented a paper about her treatment at a meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Society on October 20, 1936. The paper was later published in The Psychoanalytic Quarterly.1

1G. S. Goldman, A case of compulsive handwashing, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 1938, 7:96-121.


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