Karen Horney was extremely influential in the psychological advances she made during her career; she did not only make large strides in the neuroticism areas, but also made psychological advances for the psychological attitude towards women. Horney herself was a victim of depression, succumbing to the illness after her she and her brother grew apart and she had to deal with her strict father exclusively. While her depression was detrimental to her self-esteem, she decided that she would work as hard as she could in her studies. In 1906 she started medical school specializing in psychoanalysis, studying with Karl Abraham, who was a protégée of Freud himself. During her time in medical school she married Oskar Horney in 1909, and her mother died in 1911. She began working as a psychologist in several hospitals in Berlin between 1915 and 1920. When her brother died in 1923, another fit of depression started. She left her husband in 1926 and moved to America with her three daughters. Karen Horney later became friends with other intellectuals and psychologists, and worked in the New York Psychiatric Institute. She began writing and developing psychological theories, as well as developing the Association for The Advancement of Psychoanalysis, The American Institute of Psychoanalysis, and the paper for her institution, the American Journal of Psychoanalysis. She also published books detailing her work; The Neurotic Personality of Our Time in 1937 and New Ways in Psychoanalysis in 1939 (“Karen horney biography”, n.d.) and Self Analysis in 1942.
Karen Horney developed theories which became major advances in the psychological field. Her first development was her stance and discoveries for neuroticism. Neuroticism is a personality trait which enables the individual to feel emotions of anxiety, instability, and aggressive behaviors. Horney believed that instead of biological influences, environmental and social conditioning develops the personality elements that create neurosis. Several situations that a child is exposed to create neurotic behaviors later in life; for example over protection, taking sides in parental arguments, too much or too little admiration, or too much or too little responsibility. These situations are around the child so much that they are seen as needs instead of strategies to cope with anxiety. Horney developed 10 behavioral traits that she outlined people with neurotic tendencies use as coping methods; the need for affection or approval, the need to rely on a partner, the need to restrict one’s life, the need for power, the need to exploit others, the need for prestige, the need for personal admiration, the need for personal achievement, the need for independence, and the need for perfection. These 10 needs were later developed into three coping strategies; compliance, aggression, and withdrawal (Cherry, n.d.).
As well as her major developments in neuroticism, Karen Horney also challenged the then leading Freudian theories, especially that of “penis envy”. The field of psychology was male dominated in the early 1900’s, and many relied on Freud’s advances. However, Karen Horney did not feel that women develop unconscious jealousy of men at the time of puberty; she believed that men feel inadequate and are jealous that women have the ability to create and support life, and therefore seek to dominate in all other prominent areas of life. Horney called this phenomenon countering Freud’s beliefs “womb envy” (Boeree, 2006).
Karen Horney died in New York City in 1952, and worked within the Associations she founded and wrote for their journals until she died. Though she died over 60 years ago, Horney’s developments in neurotic psychology and feminist psychology and psychoanalysis are still incredibly prominent and revolutionary today.
Boeree, G. (2006, January 1). Horney’s Personality Theory – Psychology of Personality Period 6. Google
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Cherry, K. (n.d.). Horney’s List of Neurotic Needs. About.com Psychology. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from
Karen horney biography. (n.d.). Bio.com. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from