Definition of cathexis in English:


Pronunciation /kəˈTHeksəs/ /kəˈθɛksəs/


  • The concentration of mental energy on one particular person, idea, or object (especially to an unhealthy degree).

    ‘Vincent describes three developmental positions in adolescence: chaos, narcissistic depression, and renewed cathexis of the object.’
    • ‘Because the structure of cathexis emphasizes affective and normative components of relationships, Wingood and DiClemente refer to it as the structure of affective attachments and social norms.’
    • ‘The only thing that I can do, or anybody else can do, is to help you see that, and see your way to, what is called in psycho-medical literature, cathexis.’
    • ‘The title of this series is a pun on Freud's text ‘Mourning and Melancholia,’ which examines object cathexis in libidinal development, the loss of which leads to narcissism.’
    • ‘Such a cathexis of subjective viewpoints on an external event or character is, of course, common in narrative works associated with Modernism.’


1920s from Greek kathexis ‘retention’, translating German Libidobesetzung, coined by Freud.