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  1. Mary Jo Peebles

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0005

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Peebles, M. J. 2010. Abreaction. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Bethesda, MD

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


In mental health, abreaction has come to mean an intense emotional release or discharge in an involuntary, vivid, sensory reliving or re-experiencing, of an event that was originally neurobiologically overwhelming (i.e., “traumatic”) and thus could not be remembered (or forgotten) in normal ways. Abreaction has its origins in psychoanalytic theory, but because it taps essential principles of emotional functioning, memory, and mind-body interaction, aspects of it are blended into diverse modalities across theoretical orientations. Originally, abreaction was viewed as curative in itself, believed to be healing through the discharging of excessive, dysregulating emotions thought to be the cause of dysfunctional symptoms.


  • abreaction;
  • posttraumatic stress disorder;
  • dissociation;
  • psychobiology