Emma Eckstein  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Emma Eckstein (1865–1924) was an early patient of Sigmund Freud who later practiced as a psychoanalyst.

Eckstein came from a prominent socialist family and was active in the Viennese women's movement. When she was 27, she went to Freud, seeking treatment for vague symptoms including stomach ailments and slight depression related to menstruation. Freud diagnosed Eckstein as suffering from hysteria and believed that she masturbated to excess, in those days considered dangerous to mental health. Freud suspected, in addition, a "nasal reflex neurosis", a condition popularized by his friend and collaborator Wilhelm Fliess, an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Fliess had been treating "nasal reflex neurosis" by cauterizing the inside of the nose under local anesthesia with cocaine used as the anesthetic. Fliess found that the treatment yielded positive results, in that his patients became less depressed. Fliess conjectured that if temporary cauterization was temporarily useful, perhaps surgery would yield more permanent results. He began operating on the noses of patients he diagnosed with the disorder, including Eckstein and even Freud himself.

Eckstein's surgery was a disaster. She suffered from terrible infections for some time, and profuse bleeding. Freud called in a specialist, his old school friend, Dr Ignaz Rosannes, who removed a mass of surgical gauze that Fliess had not removed. Eckstein's nasal passages were so damaged that she was left permanently disfigured. Freud initially attributed this damage to the surgery, but later, as an attempt to reassure his friend that he shouldn't blame himself, Freud reiterated his belief that the initial nasal symptoms had been due to hysteria.

She appears as a character in Joseph Skibell's 2010 novel, A Curable Romantic.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Emma Eckstein" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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