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Thompson, C. (1938). Clinical: Martin Grotjahn. 'Psycho-Analysis and Brain Disease.' Psychoanalytic Review, 1938, Vol. XXV, No. 2, pp. 149–164.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 19:493-494.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Clinical: Martin Grotjahn. 'Psycho-Analysis and Brain Disease.' Psychoanalytic Review, 1938, Vol. XXV, No. 2, pp. 149–164.

(1938). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 19:493-494

Clinical: Martin Grotjahn. 'Psycho-Analysis and Brain Disease.' Psychoanalytic Review, 1938, Vol. XXV, No. 2, pp. 149–164.

Clara Thompson

The article begins by giving examples to shew that the mental picture even of general paralysis may be changed by psychical means. The theme of this paper is that even during the paralytic process the inner life history of the individual can be understood by psychological methods. The somatic influence may cause the personality to react with a mental symptom to the injury to its integrity. The organic illness cannot be the explanation of the mental changes and there still remains the obligation to explain psychic symptoms by psychic facts. For example, it is known that a drunken person may become suddenly sober under emotional stress although the somatic condition is not altered.

The author differs from Schilder in that he believes that psychic causality is not the same as physical causality. This also brings up the questionable difference between cause and motive, since a motive has a quality of subjective meaning. The law of causality is evident only in the physical world. In the psychological world we do not deal with unchanging facts: e.g. a person is called 'normal' if well adjusted to reality, but this is an ever-changing relation.

If there is a psychic reaction of the personality to the so-called influence of the organic sphere, we can explain juvenile general paralysis in psychoanalytic terms. In this disease there is the opportunity to study the race between the paretic process and the development of the juvenile personality. Dementia occupies a prominent position and is accompanied by a change in the child's behaviour. The child loses initiative and self-confidence and turns to younger playmates. The change is accompanied by a preconscious foreboding of severe illness. There is often a short severe depression with desperation and anxiety. This early warning is often felt during the Oedipus situation and is accepted as punishment for masturbation. At the beginning of mental change depression increases and is related to withdrawal of the parents' love and a change in attitude of teachers. Probably every child develops a feeling of guilt in this setting. Even children who become euphoric show underlying depression.

The malarial treatment gives the child psychic relief. The fact of illness is acknowledged. The fever and chills satisfy the need for punishment and the attention and gifts of love prepare the child for remission. The illness has hampered the development of the personality; the fever treatment offers a basis for the self-realization of the mature personality. When the patient gains courage and initiative, the remission is more complete and subsequent maturity of the personality occurs. The prognosis in children whose illness begins after fourteen is better than in younger ones, because the final fight with illness is at a higher level. Adult

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paresis has a better prognosis than juvenile because of the maturity of the personality.

A second fever cure is seldom followed by the psychic success of the first because it cannot impress the patient as dramatically.

From the author's cases he concludes that serological success in juvenile cases only slightly differs from that in the acquired disease, but remissions are less frequent in the former. One can predict the outcome from the psychological study better than from the serology.

An analysis of the anxiety reaction to the somatic situation is important. If the fact of illness is known, the destructive danger is recognized to have its origin in the outside world. It is a 'realangst'. There is also a super-ego anxiety, and this can be neutralized by the punishment of treatment. In the adult paretic the super-ego anxiety is greater. This fact may possibly explain why the juvenile case seldom shews true psychotic regression.

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Article Citation

Thompson, C. (1938). Clinical. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 19:493-494

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