What are the consequences when the ego (the executive decision making element of our psychic apparatus) can no longer cope with the demands of our desires, our morals and values and the difficulties of reality? According to Freud anxiety, an unpleasant inner state that people try to avoid, is a signal to the ego that all is not well. He described three types of anxiety:
Reality anxiety: this occurs when the ego becomes completely overwhelmed by threats of an external nature, for example an earthquake. It is essentially a fear of real world events. The most common way of reducing this form of anxiety is to try to avoid external stimuli that may trigger it.
Neurotic anxiety: the unconscious fear that we will lose control of the id’s urges (the primitive and spontaneous part of the psychic apparatus), resulting in punishment for inappropriate behaviour. An example would be hitting someone for upsetting you.
Moral anxiety: a fear of doing something that violates our moral code. It occurs when the ego feels threatened by the superego (our moral compass) as a response to us breaking our own principles, morals and values. An example would be having an affair.