GainIs this confusing? The words "primary" and "secondary" come up again and again in psychspeak. They mean different things each time. Let's sort it out:

Primary & Secondary Dysfunction

With regard to sexual dysfunction, the DSM refers to primary dysfunctions as those that have existed from the beginning of sexual functioning (things never worked). Secondary dysfunctions are those that develop after a period of normal functioning (things used to work, not anymore). 

Primary & Secondary Gain

Shows up in the DSM in discussion of Conversion Disorder. Primary gain occurs when symptoms keep an internal conflict or need out of conscious awareness. Secondary gain occurs when symptoms help in avoiding unwanted activity or obtain hard-to-get support from others.

Primary & Secondary Process

In psychoanalytic theory...forget it, I'll quote [now verywellmind]: In Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, the primary process works to resolve tension created by the pleasure principle. Rather than act on dangerous or unacceptable urges, the id forms a mental image of a desired object to substitute for an urge in order to diffuse tension and anxiety. The secondary process discharges the tension between the ego and the id that is caused by unmet urges or needs. The secondary process functions through the ego's action of looking for an object in the real world that matches the mental image created by the id's primary process.

Is this confusing? Yes! But hopefully less so now.  

March 26, 2009
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