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This week we’ll look at words of psychology and psychiatry. (I should have saved paranoia from last week!) Of course, there are dozens of familiar names of psychological disorders (psychosis; schizophrenia) or mechanisms (sublimation; projection). But we’ll try to concentrate those that are particularly interesting, or on other psychological/psychiatric areas.

We begin, of course, with a word that also fits last week’s para- theme.

parapraxis – a Freudian slip; a minor error, such as a slip of the tongue, thought to reveal a repressed motive
[para- + praxis, act, action]

Appropriately, our example-quote concerns a famous dictionary-maker.
    The last episode in the series, about Samuel Johnson, was the best of all … . Only one parapraxis suggested a little lingering Scottish resentment. He pronounced Gough Square, where Johnson lived and wrote his dictionary, "guff". A good joke but not, I think, a deliberate one.
    – NewStatesman, Sept. 2007
 
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fugue [Latin fuga ‘flight’] – a pathological amnesiac condition: one is aware of one's acts, but cannot recollect them after returning to a normal state. Loss of awareness of one’s identity, often with flight from one’s usual environment. (Usually from severe mental stress; may persist for as long as several months)
    [Agatha] Christie was at the center of her own mystery in 1926 when she disappeared for 10 days. She claimed to have suffered a nervous breakdown and a fugue state caused by the death of her mother and her husband’s infidelity, but many people believed it was a publicity stunt.
    – Connect Savannah (GA) (on-line), March 11, 2008
 
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syntonic – highly responsive (emotionally) to the environment; having the responsive, lively type of temperament which is liable to manic-depressive psychosis
[from Greek for “high-strung, intense” and for “to draw tight” The word has another meaning, in electrical terminology: “relating to two oscillating circuits of the same resonant frequency”.]

Most often seen in the phrase “ego-syntonic”.
    Anorexia is considered an "ego-syntonic" disease, meaning that it is "in sync" with the ego.
    – Vibrant Life, Jan. 1, 2007

    "They can be clinically treated," says Simms, "but they are ego-syntonic, meaning they usually are consistent with self-image. Those with such disorders often deny anything is wrong with them and blame others for their problems. As a result, they may not seek treatment.
    – Medical News Today, May 3, 2005
 
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neurasthenia – a psychological disorder characterized by chronic fatigue and weakness with vague physical symptoms (headache, muscle pain, etc.); originally attributed to weakness or exhaustion of the nerves

Now considered an outdated diagnosis – but is it anything other than what we now call “chronic fatigue syndrome”?

Quoting from Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber, about some of the personalities of a woman with multiple personality disorder.
    Helen was intensely fearful; Sybil Ann, listless to the point of neurasthenia. Marjorie was vivacious and quick to laugh. … Sybil Ann shrank into the consulting room. She didn’t speak to the doctor, but whispered. … Sybil Ann sat silently, staring into vacancy. It was as if she was erasing herself from the scene …
 
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quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:
neurasthenia
Now considered an outdated diagnosis – but is it anything other than what we now call “chronic fatigue syndrome”?


Or, the other way round. Does chronic fatigue syndrome(CFS), a trendy phrase, say anything more than the Victorian idea— weak or tired nerves, i.e. neurasthenia— a descriptive term coined by George Miller Beard in 1869? A modern fashion statement, CFS has contributed to needless suffering ( link) and disabilities imposed by countless do-gooders, often without medical qualifications, who bestow medicalised labels like confetti.
 
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folie à deux – delusion or mental illness shared by two people in close association (siblings, spouses; etc.); ‘shared madness’

A distinguished biographer speaks of President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War.
    Over time, Johnson tacitly developed an anticipatory feedback system that discouraged views that the President would not receive favorably … The organization dynamics remind one of a phenomenon in psychology known as a folie à deux, in which strong, overbearing personalities are able to make others living under the same premises accept their own delusional systems.
    – Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream
 
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quote:
syntonic – highly responsive (emotionally) to the environment...

Most often seen in the phrase “ego-syntonic”.

FWIW Department: The counterpart of ego-syntonic is ego-alien. Some diseases attack a part of us - ego-syntonic; others "only" affect part of "not-us". Cancer and heart attacks, for example, involve the inner Me: they're ego-syntonic, and they're an emotional threat as well as a physical burden. A broken arm, on the other hand [sorry; couldn't resist], doesn't really threaten "me," just my arm, which is a different thing entirely. In that way it's ego-alien.

There's much more irrational fear attached to an ego-syntonic diagnosis than an ego-alien one.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: haberdasher,
 
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conation – the faculty of volition and desire; the mental processes directed toward action or change: impulse, desire, volition, and striving
    I think therapy has made a philosophical mistake, which is that cognition precedes conation – the knowing precedes action. I don’t think that’s the case. I think reflection has always been after the event.
    – James Hillman and Michael Ventura, We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy--And the World's Getting Worse

    Conation, or drive, is about a person’s ability and energy to get things done. It is separate from intelligence, emotions, or personality type.
    – Peter Vessenes and Katherine Vessenes, Building Your Multi-Million Dollar Practice
 
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Munchausen syndrome – psychological disorder in which one repeatedly seeks medical attention for physical symptoms – knowing that he is fabricating or exaggerating the symptoms he tells of, or that they are self-inflicted

[After Baron Münchhausen (1720-1797). A book, The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, collected tales the Baron had supposedly told of his fantastic, impossible adventures. The fellow who named the syndrome in 1951 explained, “[The patients’] stories, like those attributed to him, are both dramatic and untruthful.”]
    . . .Wendy Scott, who had one of the most severe cases on record of a syndrome in which people feign illness or make themselves sick to get medical treatment, died on Oct. 14. She was 50. Miss Scott spent 12 years traveling from one hospital to another in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, pretending to be ill so that she could become a patient. She was admitted to hundreds of hospitals and underwent 42 operations, nearly all of them unnecessary.
    . . .Remarkably, Miss Scott recovered from the condition, called Munchausen syndrome, which many doctors consider untreatable. In recent years, she tried to help other people with Munchausen syndrome, communicating with them by mail, telephone and Internet.
    . . .In the last year, Ms. Scott became increasingly ill but had difficulty obtaining medical care in London because of her notorious record.
    – New York Times, Oct. 25, 1999
A related condition is Munchausen syndrome by proxy: an adult (usually the mother) knowingly gives the doctor false symptom for a child, either by making up a story or by inducing the symptoms (e.g., causing vomiting with ipecac). These conditions seem to be very attractive themes for those who write medical dramas for television.

Distinctions: Such repeated “faking” of illnes is called factitious disorder. The patient knows is he untruthful (unlike hypochondria), and has no recognizable motive for feigning illness (unlike malingering). Munchausen involves faking a physical illness, not a psychological one.

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I've seen reports of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. How sad. The parent is always bringing the kid to the doctor, and, as Wordcrafter said, using Ipecac to cause vomiting, etc. How sad is that! It's bad enough when people do it themselves.

Interestingly, according to this link the "by proxy" diagnosis doesn't have to be with a child. It is sometimes with an elderly person, for example. I hadn't known that.
 
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