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Who Was Anna O?


Who Was Anna O?

Anna O., aka Bertha Pappenheim

Anna O's Real Name:

Bertha Pappenheim

Best Known For:

  • Anna O. was a patient of physician Josef Breuer.
  • Coined the phrase "talking cure."
  • Made significant contributions to social work in Germany.


February 27, 1859


May 28, 1936

Anna O's Significance in Psychology:

Bertha Pappenheim, referred to as Anna O. in the case history, came to Josef Breur for treatment for what was then known as hysteria. While caring for her dying father, Pappenheim experienced a range of symptoms that included partial paralysis, blurred vision, headaches and hallucinations. During the course of treatment, which lasted from 1880 to 1882, Breuer found that talking about her experiences seemed to offer some relief from her symptoms. Pappenheim dubbed the treatment as the "talking cure."
While Freud never actually met Pappenheim, her story fascinated him and served as the basis for Studies on Hysteria (1895), a book co-written by Breuer and Freud. Breuer’s description of her treatment led Freud to conclude that hysteria was rooted in childhood sexual abuse.
Freud’s insistence on sexuality as a cause eventually led to a rift with Breuer, who did not share this view on the origination of hysteria. "The plunging into sexuality in theory and practice is not to my taste," Breuer explained (Grubin, 2002). While the friendship and collaboration soon ended, Freud would continue his work in the development of talk therapy as a treatment for mental illness.

Grubin, D. (2002). Young Dr. Freud: A film by David Grubin. Devillier Donegan Enterprises.

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