Horney Aging and Personality Disorders

As noted earlier, Horney's neurotic types are now best described as personality disorders. She did not directly address changes as a function of aging in her three personality types or three personality dimensions. However, she did address the interpersonal issue of aging for the two sexes and thought that women suffered more greatly than men as a function of aging because of a cultural bias toward the erotic attractiveness associated with youth-fulness. She thought men who were frightened and depressed by the prospects of becoming middle aged could be considered abnormal, because that was an unusual response compared to men's typical responses to middle age. However, for women, she felt it was a more common response because of society's emphasis on youthful physical attractiveness; Horney found this natural outcome abhorrent and that an age-phobia was "pathetic." In women, it was even more pernicious for two reasons: First, aging fears in women stifle their development when they are younger and create great insecurity; ironically, this is when they are seen as physically attractive by their cultures. Second, as women age into their 30s and 40s, these anxieties and depression about aging create an unnecessary and unhealthy jealousy between mothers and daughters that frequently spoils their relationships.

Horney emphasized that aging is a problem for both men and women, but that it becomes an increasingly desperate problem if either gender holds youth and erotic attractiveness as chief values. She felt all people would suffer the loss if the important qualities of maturity like poise, independence, autonomy of judgment, and wisdom were not core societal and personal values. If society's core values remain youth and attractiveness, according to Horney, beginning in people's 20s, insecurity begins to rob people of their worth, and she considered insecurity the greatest evil of her time and culture.

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