Definition of cathexis in US English:



  • The concentration of mental energy on one particular person, idea, or object (especially to an unhealthy degree).

    • ‘Such a cathexis of subjective viewpoints on an external event or character is, of course, common in narrative works associated with Modernism.’
    • ‘The title of this series is a pun on Freud's text ‘Mourning and Melancholia,’ which examines object cathexis in libidinal development, the loss of which leads to narcissism.’
    • ‘The only thing that I can do, or anybody else can do, is to help you see that, and see your way to, what is called in psycho-medical literature, cathexis.’
    • ‘Because the structure of cathexis emphasizes affective and normative components of relationships, Wingood and DiClemente refer to it as the structure of affective attachments and social norms.’
    • ‘Vincent describes three developmental positions in adolescence: chaos, narcissistic depression, and renewed cathexis of the object.’


1920s: from Greek kathexis ‘retention’, translating German Libidobesetzung, coined by Freud.