The word "neurasthenia" is a term that has fallen into disuse among psychiatrists in the United States and Australia. It remains in use in the United Kingdom. Where it is used, it covers a wide spectrum of symptoms including the sensation of pain or of numbness in various parts of the body, chronic fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and fainting. Additional findings associated with this term may include rapid intense heartbeat that may be irregular (palpitations, tachycardia); cold, clammy hands and feet; abnormally rapid breathing (hyperventilating); dizziness or faintness; periodic sighing; and/or sweating for no apparent reason.
Major symptoms of neurasthenia include a feeling of weakness or fatigue, which may be accompanied by chest pain. A rapid intense heartbeat, which may be irregular (palpitations, tachycardia) can occur. The individual may have cold, clammy hands and feet. Hyperventilation causes a dizzy or faint feeling. Sighing periodically, or sweating for no reason are other symptoms associated with neurasthenia. This condition may occur along with, or after, depression or other psychological disorders.
Angiopathic neurasthenia (also called angioparalytic neurasthenia, or pulsating neurasthenia) refers to a mild form of Neurasthenia in which the patient feels a pulsing or throbbing sensation throughout the entire body. Gastric neurasthenia is a mild form of neurasthenia accompanied by digestive dysfunction and stomach enlargement (distention), and by indigestion (dyspepsia). Neurasthenia gravis refers to an extreme and persistent form of neurasthenia. Neurasthenia precox (or primary neurasthenia) tends to occur most often in adolescents and is characterized by nervous exhaustion.
Neurasthenia is a mental disorder caused by emotional stress or anxiety. It is not caused by any underlying physical (organic) problems even though physical discomfort can be present.
Neurasthenia is a fairly common disorder which may occur in childhood, adolescence or adulthood. It affects males and females in equal numbers.
Testing can be done to rule out any underlying physical (organic) causes that might lead to the symptoms of neurasthenia. Treatment includes reassuring the patient that the symptoms are not due to any physical (organic) causes. Counseling will be of benefit to the patient in learning how to control feelings of stress and anxiety. If necessary, biofeedback, sedatives or tranquilizers may be prescribed.
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