Archive for August 30th, 2011

August 30, 2011

Anal Retentive


The term anal retentive, commonly abbreviated to anal, is used conversationally to describe a person who pays such attention to detail that the obsession becomes an annoyance to others, and can be carried out to the detriment of the anal-retentive person. The term derives from Freudian psychoanalysis. People who are said to be anal retentive usually suffer from obsessive–compulsive personality disorder. In the psychology of Freud, the anal stage is said to follow the oral stage of infant or early-childhood development. This is a time when an infant’s attention moves from oral stimulation to anal stimulation (usually the bowels but occasionally the bladder), usually synchronous with learning to control his or her excretory functions, a time of toilet training.

Freud theorized that children who experience conflicts during this period of time may develop ‘anal’ personality traits, namely those associated with a child’s efforts at excretory control: orderliness, stubbornness, a compulsion for control. If these qualities continue into later life, the person is said to be ‘anal retentive.’ Conversely, those who reject anal characteristics are said to have ‘anal expulsive’ personality types. Although Freud’s theories on early childhood have been influential on the psychological community, research suggests that the overall pattern of parental attitudes has a much more concrete effect on how an infant will grow up. There is no conclusive research linking anal stage conflicts with ‘anal’ personality types.