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©1998-2013 Maria Helena Rowell

The Oral Stage
Freud's first phase of psychosexual development


At the oral stage, the sexual pleasure is predominantly related to the excitation of the oral cavity and lips, associated with feeding.

Throughout the first 18 months of life, the characteristics of the main drive are: source=the oral zone, aim=incorporation, object=that of ingestion of food.

The object relationship is organized through nutrition and colored by phantasies that acquire the meanings of eating and being eaten (canibalistic impulses). Thus the accent falls upon an (oral) erotogenic zone and a relational mode (incorporation).

Karl Abraham suggested the term oral sadistic stage as a subdivision of the oral stage, according to two different activities:

sucking -early oral stage of preambivalent sucking

biting - oral sadistic stage concurrent with teething, when incorporation means the destruction of the object due to instinctual ambivalence, that is, the coexistence of libido and aggression in the relationship to a single object. Chewing, biting and spitting are expressions of this early aggressive need, which later may play an important role in depressions, addictions and perversions.

Oral conflicts are expressed in such symptoms as distaste for food, vomiting, jaw spasm, grinding of the teeth, speech inhibitions.

An oral character structure is characterized by traits like greed, dependency, impatience, restlessness and curiosity.

The experience of satisfaction, postulated by Freud as the image of the external satisfying object (capable of ending the inner tensions of hunger), is responsible for the construction of the subject's desire and the continuous search for an object that can replicate this primal experience.


Abraham, K. - "A short study of the development of the libido, viewed in the light of mental disorders". In Selected Papers (London: Hogarth, 1927), 442-53

Freud, S. - Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d) [SE, VII, 198] - Buy this book

Brenner, C. - An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis - Buy this book

Laplanche, J. & Pontalis, J.-B. - The Language of Psychoanalysis, London, KARNAC, 1988 - Buy this book

Moore, B. E. & Fine, B. D. - Psychoanalytic Terms & Concepts, New Haven, The American Psychoanalytic Association and Yale University Press, 1990 - Buy this book

Glossary/ Index Anal Stage Phallic Stage Latency Period Genital Stage These Books