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Psychostenia: what is it and to what disorders is it associated?

Psychostenia: what is it and to what disorders is it associated?

December 31, 2022

There are concepts within the field of psychology that exist practically from the beginning of this and although they are not currently used in the same way, they can still be used for the evaluation and identification of a series of alterations or psychological disorders.

One of them is psychasthenia, currently conceived as a personality trait . Those who exhibit this feature may experience high levels of anxiety, obsessions and even episodes of depersonalization.

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What is psychasthenia?

Although the conception of this has changed a lot over the years, psychasthenia is considered as an alteration of the psychological or mental tension characterized by present 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 characteristic of their symptoms.

In spite of this, at the present time the psychasthenia is not considered as a disorder or clinical diagnosis, it still continues to figure as a more personality factor within the clinical scales of evaluation of the MMPI , an evaluation test used to detect alterations of personality and behavior.

In this sense, as a personality trait, psychasthenia is distinguished by provoking a lack of control of conscious thought and memory , which translates into scattered thoughts and language or a tendency to forget what was being talked about.


This disintegrated discourse It is the result of a few ordered thought processes , which are manifested by sentences that are not very consistent and that are usually incomprehensible to the people who listen to it. In addition, the person with psychasthenic features tends to manifest intense and irrational fears associated with their attention and concentration difficulties. As well as serious pictures of stress and anxiety.

All these symptoms make psychasthenia understood as a breakdown of psychological tension, which can become permanent, degenerative and, according to some theorists, hereditary.

What symptoms does it present?

Although it is not considered a disorder or psychological disorder with a specific diagnostic label, psychasthenia is characterized by presenting a series of signs in those people in whom it occurs.

These symptoms characterize the personality of the person, which it is defined as being of an anxious nature and presented with phobic, obsessive or compulsive symptomatology among others. The severity of this clinical picture may vary among the people who present it. However, this symptomatology is usually quite intense, reaching the point of interfering in the person's daily life and in their well-being.


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

1. Anxiety

Traditionally it has been determined that anxiety is the main symptom of psychasthenia, which causes and generates the rest of anxious symptomatology that characterizes it. People with psychostenia tend to manifest states of anxiety and tension constantly high, which leads to nervousness and anguish in a habitual way.

2. Phobias

Phobias consist of a series of disorders or mental disorders that are characterized by causing the person sensations of fear and disproportionate and irrational fear before the appearance of certain specific stimuli, objects or situations.

This variety of fear disorder generates clinically significant symptoms of anxiety as long as the person is facing the stimulus considered as phobic, causing it to carry out all kinds of behaviors and behaviors to avoid or flee the feared situation.

3. Nervous tics

Due to the high degree of tension that causes psychostenia, it is very possible that the person experiences a series of tics and sudden and uncontrolled movements known as tics. These muscle reactions are distinguished by being convulsive, sudden and exaggerated .

4. Obsessions

Obsessions are traditionally defined as a series of mood alterations caused by the development of ideas and fixed and recurrent thoughts in the mind of the person.

These obsessive thoughts are usually associated with a specific idea that appears recurrently causing serious concern, high levels of anxiety and anxiety.

5. Compulsions

Associated with obsessive ideas or thoughts, we find compulsions. This concept refers to the need felt by the person to perform repetitive behaviors or behaviors .

These behaviors are carried out with the objective of diminishing the anxiety reactions provoked by obsessive ideas and thoughts. Although obsessive-compulsive reactions form a specific clinical picture of OCD, in psychostenia they appear as part of the symptomatology of this.

  • Perhaps you are interested: "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): what is it and how does it manifest?"

6. Depersonalization

The last of these symptoms is depersonalization. Depersonalization consists of a disorder by which the person experiences an alteration of the perception of herself in which he feels that his mind is detached from his body and that he can perceive it from outside, as an observer.

Concept according to the MMPI

As mentioned above, although psychostenia is no longer considered a mental illness or disorder as such, the MMPI continues collecting it as a pathological alteration of the personality very close to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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

Although it can not be considered a diagnostic label, this subscale facilitates the identification of personality traits in which the lack of control of conscious thought, alterations in memories and the tendency to anxiety and obsessive thinking prevails.

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