In Freudian psychology, libido designates psychic or sexual energy.

Libido is central to the theory of psychosexual development outlined in Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). Libido is the primary energy that is redirected to different erogenous zones throughout the stages of pregenital sexuality (oral, anal, phallic). These different stages take place between birth and the age of about five years. According to Freud, after the latency period, the libido emerges in its mature manifestation at the genital stage that begins in adolescence. During all these permutations, the libido also shifts from being primarily autoerotic and narcissistic to being directed at a love object. The term libido, which Sigmund Freud used as early as 1894 and as late as the 1930s, underwent changes as he expanded, developed, and revised his theories of sexuality, personality development, and motivation. In Freud's early works, it is associated specifically with sexuality.

When Freud reformulated his theory of motivation around 1920, he defined libido more broadly as oppositional forces within each person, life and death instincts (Eros and Thanatos). In this context, libido is the source of all the life instincts. Libido energizes sexuality and other basic drives, as well as more complex human activities such as the creation of art.

See also Freud, Sigmund; Psychosexual stages ; Sex differences ; Sexidentity.



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