Freud published Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria in 1905, four years after completing his final draft. He held off on publication for fear of damaging the reputation of his patient and her family. His apprehension is noticeably present in his "Prefatory Remarks" to the case study, and his concern for Dora's privacy is the reason why all of the names are pseudonyms.
Despite Freud's efforts to conceal Dora's identity, it is now known that Dora was an eighteen year old girl, named Ida Bauer, who went to see Freud upon her father's insistence. She suffered from many of the symptoms of female hysteria, including periodic loss of voice, fits of coughing and depression. Freud worked with Dora to alleviate her symptoms for several months before she suddenly left treatment at the end of 1900.
The case study was thus a fragment and not a finished work, a point which Freud emphasizes at various points in the text. Despite not meeting Freud's expectation, Dora:An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria brought together the most important theories of his early work, laying out his ideas on hysteria, the unconscious and dreams. Freud published his first major work in 1900, The Interpretation of Dreams. It was in this book that Freud first emphasized the importance of dream analysis to understanding unconscious mental processes. The work also introduced the concept of the Ego and the Oedipus complex. Its influence is thus strongly felt in Dora's case study.
Freud started his research into hysteria and psychoanalysis with Joseph Breuer. Freud collaborated with Breuer on the case of Anna O., an educated twenty-one year old woman who exhibited hysterical symptoms. Anna's case lead to the psychoanalytic method of free association and the discovery of transference. Freud and Breuer published the findings of this case and others in Studies on Hysteria in 1895.
It was through his early interactions with hysterics that Freud discovered that hysterical symptoms were often the product of sexual trauma, experienced during childhood. Although it is not often studied today, the work provided the basis for many of the arguments that Freud made in Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.
Today, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria remains one of Freud's most elucidating and divisive works. On one hand, it demonstrates Freud's ability to delve deep into the unconscious and to bring hidden thoughts to the surface. On the other, the tension between patient and analyst is palpable and forces the treatment to a premature end.