• Maria Sederstrøm Kristensen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
This study examines the understanding and treatment of anxiety related to breast
cancer from an existential and a psychodynamic perspective.
To explore the aspects of anxiety related to breast cancer this study makes use of a
number of psychological theories with foundation in existential and psychodynamic
theories. This is supplemented with the use of literature and empirical studies on health
psychology, supporting the existential and psychodynamic theories, when
investigating the understanding and treatment of women with anxiety caused by breast
To investigate the existential perspective on anxiety related to breast cancer the focus
is manly on the assumption that anxiety appears when the individual is confronted with
four existential life conditions; death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness.
The psychodynamic perspective explores the anxiety experienced by women with
breast cancer by focusing on different theories on anxiety. The development of anxiety
in women with breast cancer can be understood to be caused by the reproduction of
one or more traumatic experiences during early childhood, or as separation anxiety
caused by separation or threat of separation from primary caretakers. Furthermore,
anxiety can also be caused by a traumatic incident such as breast cancer, depending on
the individual’s vulnerability. Another factor that potentially may increase the anxiety
in women with breast cancer is the women’s own narcissistic traits as they feel an
inability to live up to the ideals of the modern society.
When treating women with anxiety related to breast cancer using existential
psychotherapy, the focus is mainly on the therapeutic relationship. In addition to this,
existential psychotherapy concentrate on the four existential life conditions mentioned
above, in an attempt to decrease or confront the anxiety by increasing the client’s
awareness of her own mortality and responsibility of her life situation, as well as
confronting her with her isolation anxiety and encouraging her to involve herself in
life, when the situation seems meaningless.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy in women with anxiety related to breast cancer centers
around psychotherapeutic methods and phenomenons such as the unconscious mind,
transference, countertransference and defense mechanisms. These methods are used to
examine the anxiety and hidden feelings underneath the anxiety.
The therapeutic alliance may face problems, when treating a woman with anxiety
related to breast cancer e.g. if the client has narcissistic traits or the therapist takes on
the role as the savior.
Furthermore, it is found that the anxiety related to breast cancer can have positive
effects if e.g. it helps to change the women’s view on life.
Publication date16 Sept 2015
Number of pages88
ID: 218878125