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Keywords:

  • acting-out;
  • adolescence;
  • adolescent breakdown;
  • body;
  • loss;
  • mania;
  • manic defences;
  • paranoid anxieties;
  • depressive anxieties;
  • self-harm;
  • superego

The aim of this paper is to explore two different modalities of manic defences and their specific underlying anxieties. I will describe the relation between these defences and the role of the superego and their specific function in adolescent breakdown. While one type of manic defence operates by the ego’s identification with a sadistic superego the other one operates via evacuation of a guilt-inducing superego. I will illustrate the proposed ideas with clinical examples from the analysis of two adolescents. This paper stresses the specific differences between these two modalities and the clinical importance of both identifying and addressing the enactment in the transference of the unconscious phantasies and anxieties (paranoid and depressive) that give rise to these two types of defences.