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June 1993

Coping With Myasthenia Gravis and Implications for Psychotherapy

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy (Mr Doering and Dr Schüssler) and Neurology (Dr Henze), University of Göttingen (Germany).

Arch Neurol. 1993;50(6):617-620. doi:10.1001/archneur.1993.00540060055018

• The aim of this study was to investigate psychosocial influences and mechanisms of coping to establish indications for psychotherapy in patients with myasthenia gravis. We investigated clinical symptoms, personality, psychopathology, and coping in 44 patients with myasthenia gravis. The patients' personalities were not characteristically altered, and in 29.5% (13/44) of them, preexistent, long-term psychiatric disturbances (according to International Classification of Diseases criteria) were present, which corresponds to the prevalence in the average population. In general, coping was characterized by an attitude of calmness and acceptance, which is attributable to effective medical treatment and could be considered an unspecific mode of coping with chronic diseases of moderate severity. Four women had undergone psychotherapy because of neurotic symptoms that were unrelated to myasthenia gravis. At the end of psychotherapy, their myasthenic symptoms had greatly improved or disappeared. Psychotherapeutic techniques may be helpful in patients with neurotic or reactive psychiatric symptoms, but there is no general implication for psychotherapy in myasthenic patients, especially if there is adequate "somatic" therapy.