Psychastenia: what is it and what disorders is it associated with?

There are concepts in the field of psychology that have existed practically since the beginnings of psychology and although they are not currently used in the same way, they can still be used to assess and identify a number of alterations or alterations. psychological disorders.

One of them is psychasthenia, currently conceived as a personality trait. Those with this characteristic can experience high levels of anxiety, obsessions, and even episodes of depersonalization.

    What is psychasthenia?

    Although the conception of it has changed a lot over the years, psychasthenia is considered to be an alteration of psychological or mental stress characterized by have symptoms associated with phobias, obsessions, compulsions, or anxiety disorders.

    This term was first described in 1903 by psychologist and neurologist Pierre Janet, who developed a clinical picture that included the different varieties of phobias, anxieties and obsessions inherent in their symptoms.

    However, at present, psychasthenia is not considered a disorder or a clinical diagnosis, it is still listed as an additional personality factor in the clinical scales of the MMPI assessment, An assessment test used to detect personality and behavioral disorders.

    In this sense, as a personality trait, psychasthenia is distinguished by causing a lack of control over conscious thought and memory, Which results in scattered thoughts and language or a tendency to forget what one was talking about.

    This disintegrated speech it is the result of disorderly thought processes, Which manifest themselves in inconsistent sentences and are often incomprehensible to those who hear them. In addition, the person with traits of psychasthenia tends to exhibit intense and irrational fears associated with their difficulty in attention and concentration. As well as severe cases of stress and anxiety.

    All these symptoms mean that psychasthenia is understood as a failure of psychological stress, and can become permanent, degenerative and, according to some theorists, hereditary.

    What are the symptoms?

    While not considered a psychological disorder or a disorder with a specific diagnostic label, psychasthenia is characterized by a number of signs in the people in whom it occurs.

    These symptoms characterize the personality of the person, which it is defined as being of an anxious nature and presenting a phobic, obsessive or compulsive symptomatology other. The severity of this clinical picture may vary depending on the person presenting it. However, this symptomatology is usually quite intense, reaching the point of interfering with the daily life and well-being of the person.

    Next, we describe the main characteristics or symptoms of the psychosthenic personality.

    1. Anxiety

    Anxiety has traditionally been considered the main symptom of psychasthenia, which causes and generates the rest of the anxiety symptoms that characterize it. People with psychasthenia tend to exhibit states of anxiety and tension constantly high, which leads them to nervousness and anxiety in the usual way.

    2. Phobias

    Phobias are a series of mental disorders or disorders that are characterized by causing in the person feelings of fear and disproportionate and irrational fear when faced with the appearance of certain stimuli, objects or specific situations.

    This variety of fear disorder generates clinically significant anxiety symptoms whenever the person is confronted with the stimulus considered phobic, causing them to engage in all kinds of behaviors and behaviors to avoid or escape the dreaded situation.

    3. Nervous tics

    Due to the high degree of stress caused by psychasthenia, it is very possible for the person to experience a series of sudden, uncontrolled tics and movements called tics. These muscular reactions are distinguished by their convulsive, sudden and exaggerated character..

    4. Obsessions

    Obsessions are traditionally defined as a series of psychic alterations caused by the development of fixed and recurring ideas and thoughts in a person’s mind.

    These obsessive thoughts are often associated with a specific idea that appears on a recurring basis causing severe worry, high levels of anxiety and anxiety.

    5. Compulsions

    Associated with obsessive ideas or thoughts, we find compulsions. This concept refers to the person’s need to practice repetitive behaviors or behaviors.

    These behaviors are performed in order to decrease anxiety reactions caused by obsessive thoughts and ideas. Although obsessive-compulsive reactions form a specific clinical picture of OCD, in psychastenia they appear as part of its symptoms.

      6. Depersonalization

      The last of these symptoms is depersonalization. Depersonalization is a disorder that the person experiences altered self-perception in which he feels his mind detaching from his body and can perceive from the outside, like an observer.

      Concept according to MMPI

      As mentioned above, although psychasthenia is no longer considered a disease or mental disorder as such, MMPI continues to view it as a pathological personality disorder very close to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

      Moreover, the MMPI user manual adds that these people also tend to experience extreme and abnormal feelings of guilt, pathological concentration problems or tendency to self-criticism.

      Although it cannot be considered a diagnostic label, this subscale makes it easier to identify personality traits in which lack of conscious thought control, memory alterations, and a tendency to anxiety and obsessive thinking prevail.

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