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November 1961

Coping Behavior Under Extreme StressObservations of Patients with Severe Poliomyelitis

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1961;5(5):423-448. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710170001001

Introduction  The life-threatening impact of severe poliomyelitis has been vividly described both in the scientific literature and in popular reports about polio patients. Here, for instance is a patient's description of his experience in the acute phase of illness. The realization that I was paralyzed came to me with a merciful gradualness. As the extreme lassitude and weakness left by the fever and the pain wore off, the irritations took over. I yearned to change my position, to move ever so slightly onto a cooler spot on the sheet, and I couldn't. My heels itched and I couldn't even move them up and down on the bed.Three weeks ago there had been nothing to any of it—breathing, speaking, eating, evacuating, sleeping. I had accepted my body as if it were myself. If I wanted to eat, I ate—whatever and whenever I liked. If I wanted to

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