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an oppressive mental disorder characterized by extreme indecisiveness and timidity and a tendency to fixed ideas. The disease was described in 1903 by the French physician P. Janet, who believed that the lowered capacity for perceiving reality characteristic of the disease results in constant doubt, vacillation, and concentration on imaginary dangers. According to I. P. Pavlov, psychasthenia is caused by the weakness of the subcortex and the first signaling system and the predominance of the second signaling system. The term “psychasthenia” is used in modern medicine to denote either some form of psychopathy or an obsessional neurosis in psychopathic personalities.
Psychasthenic individuals are noted for their anxiety, mistrust, shyness, and concern with details. Their initiative is low, although they have a strong sense of duty. They often have tormenting doubts regarding the correctness of their decisions and fear they will be unable to discharge their obligations. Their lack of self-confidence makes them repeatedly verify their actions; for example, a psychasthenic may repeatedly check whether he has turned off the gas or actually placed the letter into the mailbox. An imaginary danger is more frightening than a real one. The mental capacity of psychasthenics is not impaired and may be high; for example, pronounced symptoms of psychasthenia were observed in E. Zola at the height of his literary career.
Psychotherapy is the chief means of treating psychasthenia. Occupational therapy and psychotropic drugs are also used.
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Ozeretskovskii, D. S. Naviazchivye sostoianiia. Moscow, 1950.
Davidenkov, S. N. Nevrozy. Leningrad, 1963.
Kerbikov, O. V. “K ucheniiu o dinamike psikhopatii.” Izbr. trudy. Moscow, 1971. Pages 163–87.
Sviadoshch, A. M. Nevrozy i ikh lechenie, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.
Janet, P. Les Obsessions el la psychasthenie, 3rd ed, vols. 1–2. Paris,1911–19.
A. M. SVIADOSHCH