Few people have the sort of impact in their field of study as Sigmund Freud did with psychology.

Approaching the 100-year anniversary of his death, Freud’s work continues to be studied, and used in day-to-day treatment of many mental health conditions. He has certainly left a strong legacy on the world.


Freud was born in 1856, and hailed from an area called Moravia in Austria – although this area is now known as Pribor, in the Czech Republic.

At just 25 years of age, he qualified as a Doctor, and went on to become a professor in 1902. From there, he slowly moved into psychiatry.


Freud’s biggest contribution to psychology was his theory of psychoanalysis – which offered a large body of work which contained Freud’s theories on a vast array of subjects.

The creation of techniques such as free association are attributed to him, while his proclivity for analysing dreams was innovative, and continues to be used to this day.

Other well-known contributions include Freud’s theory of the mind – made up of the conscious, preconscious and unconscious sections, which helped form the overall mind.

A visual representation of Freud’s theory of personality

Freud proposed that mental health conditions were largely caused by traumatic thoughts, feelings and memories that were located in the unconscious mind, having been repressed from the conscious mind.

These feelings continue to impact a person in the present day, causing mental disturbance. Techniques like dream analysis can help uncover these disturbances.

Freud’s theory of personality stated that there were three parts that helped personality be formed. This consisted of the id, the ego and the superego.

These each had their own contribution, with the id focused on basic instincts, the superego focuses on the ‘morally’ right thing to do (albeit without taking the context of a situation into context), and the ego focusing on mediating between the two areas and producing a coherent thought pattern that would lead to a person making a decision. When the id overwhelms the superego, then harmful behaviour will typically take place.

Freud had other theories too, focused around instincts, defence mechanisms, repression and more – these weren’t exclusive either to just psychology, with Freud’s theories spreading to other fields such as religion and other humanities.

Impact on modern-day psychiatry

Freud’s theories went on to form the basis of the majority of approaches to mental health conditions throughout the 1900s.

While its influence has diminished somewhat in recent years, it still has an active role to play in many forms of therapy.

Psychoanalytical psychotherapy and Psychodynamic psychotherapy are just two examples of the modern-day therapies built on Freud’s work.


But Freud’s work did garner considerable criticism. Many suggested a lot of his work lacked scientific rigor – and wasn’t accurately tested.

Many of his suggestions haven’t been empirically supported. One of Freud’s harshest critics was author Richard Webster, who asserted psychoanalysis was a pseudoscience [1].

Freud’s infamous Oedipus Complex – which isn’t related to mental health – has been excoriated by many.

Final Years

Over the course of Freud’s career, he provided a huge array of theories. He lived in his native Austria most of his life, though he was forced to leave in the 1930s to escape the dangerous party ruling Germany at this time.

He resided in the United Kingdom until his death in 1939. The exact facts around Freud’s death aren’t known, though it is believed he requested a lethal dose of morphine to be administered to him, due to his ailing state from cancer – which was terminal, and causing ‘torture’, according to Freud.

Freud had six children during his life. Each had an impressive impact on the world, but it was Freud’s youngest daughter Anna that had the biggest impact in terms of continuing her father’s work.

She made many contributions to psychology too. Anna built on her father’s work on defence mechanisms and the ego theory of personality.

Anna is also seen as a proponent of child psychoanalysis – something that father Sigmund suggested wasn’t possible (i.e. children cannot be psychoanalysed). In 1982, Anna passed away in the United Kingdom.

To this day, those related to Freud remain in many respectable roles, including in politics, science and economics.


So while Sigmund Freud has passed away, his legacy remains, and will continue to inspire many people for several years to come.

The Freud name will always be remembered and associated with psychiatry. You can see more articles on Freud by viewing a list of articles about Freud here.

See Also


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[1]      Webster, R (1996). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: Fontana Press.