Sigmund Freud had an enormous impact on the world – having made contributions to several fields of study, including philosophy, psychology and sciences among others. His various theories helped shape mental health treatment, and it continues to have an impact decades later.

Freud was born in 1856, and eventually passed away in 1939. In this article, we chart his contributions to mental health, with further articles available within each section.


Defence Mechanisms

Life and Death Instincts

  • Freud believed that humans had two instincts – the “life” and “death” instincts. The life instinct, better known as Eros, relate to the basic needs of a human, including survival, reproduction and love. Meanwhile the death instinct, also known as Thanatos, considered that the goal of all life was death. But instead of channelling death instincts internally, people push these instincts externally, so that they won’t affect themselves

Freud’s Theory of the Mind: The Id, the Ego, and the Superego

  • Freud had a well-known theory on personality – which involved his concept of the id, ego and superego. His theory suggested that three components of personality existed – the id, the ego and the superego. He likened personality to an iceberg; an individual can only see a small piece of personality (i.e. the tip of the iceberg above the water), with most hidden away from view (like the iceberg). The tip of the iceberg refers to what a person is aware of, and the forefront of the mind. But under the water, there is an unconscious mind – where hidden thoughts, memories, feelings and desires are present.
  • The Id is the component of personality that controls urges, needs and desires. The id is always looking for pleasure – regardless of the circumstances.
  • The ego has the task of organising our thoughts to make our mind process learning in a coherent fashion. It tries to balance the id and the superego, and think about the consequences of each action.
  • The superego is seen as a person’s conscience – and will try to judge the desires of the id, and subsequently overwhelm any urges that are seen as bad. The superego is arguably the sensible part of the mind, and attempts to ensure a person acts in a way congruent with societal and cultural norms.
  • There are also two parts of the superego – the ego ideal and the conscience.
A visual representation of Freud’s theory of personality

Freud’s Theory of the Mind: The Conscious, Preconscious and Unconscious Minds

Wider Psychology Field



As seen in this article, Freud certainly made a big impact on mental health and the wider field of psychology. His theories have reached far and wide!

We have a huge range of articles on Freud. You can read more by seeing our list of articles about Freud here.

See Also


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