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Psychiatry. 2000 Spring;63(1):45-53.

A conceptualization of the repetition compulsion.

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CAB Health & Recovery Services, Inc., Danvers, MA 01923, USA.


The concept of the repetition compulsion remains an enigma. Its etiology is not fully understood and the purpose it serves continues to be a mystery. Although it is often theorized that the compulsion to repeat may function to facilitate mastery of a past trauma, mastery is rarely achieved. In this article the concept of the repetition compulsion is reviewed and the unanswered questions that continue to exist about this phenomenon are summarized. A way to conceptualize the compulsion to repeat is then offered. The compulsion to repeat as it specifically relates to the attempt to master a previous trauma is reviewed, followed by a examination of the relationship between the compulsion to repeat and reenactments. Finally, how the compulsion to repeat can be viewed as a posttraumatic stress response and the implications of understanding it in this fashion is then examined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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