Psychiatric Consultations in Stiffman Syndrome

Background: Stiffman syndrome is a rare central nervous system disease first described nearly 40 years ago. Its cause has been attributed to both neurologic and psychiatric processes. In recent years, it has been accepted as a neurologic condition in which the gaminobutyric acid (GABA) system malfunctions, probably because of an autoimmune process. Published reports that have described psychiatric manifestations of the disease have relied on descriptions of one or two cases and literature reviews.

Method: We reviewed the medical records of 24 patients with confirmed stiffman syndrome, 12 of whom had received psychiatric consultation. This review was done to better determine the psychiatric manifestations of stiff-man syndrome.

Results: Retrospective analysis of these 12 cases showed that the most common psychiatric symptoms were anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse.

Conclusion: We speculate that the GABA system is involved in both the neurologic and psychiatric symptoms of these patients. Psychiatrists have a significant role in the management of patients with stiff-man syndrome and may be expected to manage anxiety, depression, and substance misuse.

J Clin Psychiatry 1997;58(10):444-449