René Spitz: biography of this psychoanalyst

When we talk about a depressed person we usually imagine a man or woman suffering from an episode of depressed mood and with little ability to perceive the pleasure and joy in what he is doing, hopelessness and possibly a little passivity and lack of desire to do anything. . The image that comes to mind will probably be that of an adult or a teenager. But the truth is, there are different types of depression in childhood as well.

One of the first authors to research them, and creator of various concepts, was René Spitz. The life and work of this author are of great interest, which is why throughout this article let’s see a short biography of René Spitz.

    Brief biography of René Spitz

    René Spitz, whose full name was René Árpád Spitz, was born on January 29, 1887. His birth took place in the city of Vienna, Being the eldest of two brothers, children of Árpád Spitz and Ernestine Antoinette Spitz. He was part of a large and economically influential Hungarian family of Jewish descent. He also had a younger sister, Desirée Spitz (later Brody).

    Although she was born in Vienna, the family moved to Budapest, where the young Spitz grew up and began to develop and train academically.


    Spitz would enter the University of this city, studying medicine. Besides Budapest, he studied in other cities like Lausanne and Berlin. During these years he worked with professionals such as Sandor Ferenczi and began to get acquainted with the work of Sigmund Freud He completed his medical studies in the year 1910. All of this made something that appeared in Spitz to have great interest in the human psyche and in psychoanalytic theory.

    A year later (in 1911) and on Ferenczi’s recommendation, Spitz began to analyze for him in order to learn, and he eventually trained in psychoanalytic psychology. He became a member of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society in 1926, from which he participated in various surveys. Later in 1930 he did the same with the German Psychoanalytic Society.

    However two years later in 1932 moved to Paris, where he worked as a professor of psychoanalysis at the École Normale Supérieure. So little by little his interest would focus on infantile neurosis, starting to focus his research on the development of minors from the year 1935.

    But there came a time when Nazism came to power and a large number of people had to emigrate to avoid war, including Spitz.

    Transfer to America and professional life on the continent

    In 1939, during the Second World War, this important professional left Paris and went into exile in the United States at the risk of his life by having Jewish ancestry. There he would serve as a professor at City College, City University of New York. He also made a film with his research which will be released in 1952 and will also retain a post as Professor of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital.

    He then moved to Denver, Colorado, where he would be hired as a professor at the University of Colorado. Beyond his duties as a teacher, in this period of his life he would begin to focus more and more on mother-son day-to-day relationships and it would be during this vital period that he would begin to work with orphaned children.

    And it would be with them that he would discover one of his most famous concepts: anaclitic depression. It would also analyze the effects of abandonment and emotional deprivation, as well as the development of the child by analyzing object relations. During this period, he will conduct numerous studies on neurosis and child development from a psychoanalytic and genetic psychology perspective (in search of the veracity of the data in his model). In addition he produced numerous graphic press articles, such as the product in 1952: “Psychogenic disease in the Early Infancia”.

    In 1945 he began publishing in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, and a year later published one of his great works explaining the concept of anaclitic depression: the book Anaclitic Depression, The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Child. Over the years, he has produced a large number of publications and books, in addition to continuing to teach at the university. finally he was appointed president of the Denver Psychoanalytic Society in 1962, As it remained until a year later.

      Some of his best-known contributions

      Among the author’s most representative works and concepts highlights the concept of analytical depression, Which is defined by the presence of irritability, asthenia, dependence, anxiety, sleep and eating problems, isolation and low inclination, and intellectual, communicative and motor problems. This symptomatology arises from the existence of a partial deprivation of affection during infancy, and more precisely during the first eighteen months, during which the child could not have been close to the mother. He studied with children until the age of two.

      Within this concept and further developing its theory established the existence of three stages throughout this type of depression: the pre-object phase, in which the smile appears as an organizing mechanism and there is no has no possibility of distinguishing between objects or separating from the rest. , the phase of the precursor object in which it begins to be able to recognize the known and finally the real object phase in which you begin to understand a differentiation between mother and child and the anguish when she is gone, And in which also appear anxiety and the ability to say no.

      It is also necessary to consider the concept hospitalalismo, that mainly to refer to the separation between mother and son by a prolonged period, in situations for example of hospitalization.

      His remarks made him think that the bond with the mother is at the origin and marks all social relations. He also worked on aspects such as identity acquisition. Another concept well known by this author is that of marasmus, which refers to the appearance of the pathology in children with deprivation of affection, which can generate a state of great loss of weight and appetite and which, in many cases. many cases, can take to the death of the little one.

      Death and inheritance

      The death of this author occurred on September 11, 1974, in the city of Denver, at the age of 88.

      Although he is not a particularly well-known author by the majority of the population, his legacy lives on: he was the first to assess the existence of psychiatric disorders of the psychiatric type in children, And specifically to show interest, analyze and evaluate the existence of a depressive clinic in minors. His work and that of Bowlby are complementary, helping to understand elements such as the inclination of minors. And the idea of ​​anaclitic depression and reactions such as hospitals and stagnation are an important contribution to science. In this sense, he also incorporates a certain rigor in the processing of information, obtained by processes more based on observation and less abstract than other psychoanalysts.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Emde, RN (1992). Individual Importance and Growing Complexity: Contributions of Sigmund Freud and René Spitz to Developmental Psychology. Developmental Psychology, 22 (3), 347-359.
      • Spitz, RA (1946). Hospitalism; A follow-up report on the research described in Volume I, 1945. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 2, 113-117.

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