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Medicine: Psychic Arthritis

2 minute read

To the ever-growing class of mind-made diseases famed Neurologist Stanley Cobb of Harvard last week proposed a new member: arthritis. Although the main cause of arthritis is “an x factor, as yet unknown,” Dr. Cobb and his associates-reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that “poverty, grief and family worry” are intimately connected with the swollen knuckles and aching joint mice of rheumatoid arthritis.

In the Massachusetts General Hospital, 50 arthritis patients were interviewed by a psychiatrist or social worker, who asked them to talk freely of their early lives, family relations, work, marriages and children. The patients fell into three groups:

¶ Group One (ten men, 21 women) consisted of persons who complained constantly of “tough times,” “no work,” family discord. The incipience of their personal difficulties, said Dr. Cobb, “corresponded in point of time with the onset or exacerbation [sharpening] of the arthritis.”

¶ Group Two (twelve patients) also had the same worries but their arthritis pains did not begin at the same time as their troubles.

¶ Group Three (seven patients) gave “no indication of relationship between social and arthritic history.” Most of these patients were very young.

Exactly how worry is related to the excruciating pains of arthritis, Dr. Cobb last week did not venture to say. Only “detailed psychiatric study on a large group of such patients” can clear up the mystery, he concluded.

*Dr. Walter Bauer, Isabel Whiting.

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