FROHLICH’S SYNDROME

A disorder produced by underfunctioning of the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland (hypopituitarism) and lesions in the adjacent diencephalic center of the brain; first described in 1901 by the Viennese neurologist Alfred Frohlich (1871-1953).See CEREBRAL CORTEX, PITUITARY GLAND.The major symptoms of this disorder are obesity, underdeveloped genital organs and secondary sex characteristics, general sluggishness and “poverty of drive.” Boys who are afflicted with this condition tend to be timid and passive, usually prefer to play with girls and smaller children. In some cases they fail to develop ordinary skills and are mildly retarded.Some of the symptoms of Frohlich’s syndrome are also found in the Lau- rence-Moon-Biedl syndrome, another form of pituitary deficiency. In this disorder, patients are not only afflicted with obesity and genital dystrophy, but also with clear-cut and progressive mental deficiency, diabetes insipidus, poly- dactylism (excess number of fingers), and pigmentary retinitis (inflammation of the retina). The cause is unknown, although there appears to be some evidence of genetic defect. See MENTAL RETARDATION (CAUSES).The following case shows the interlocking of physical and psychological factors in Frohlich’s syndrome.Illustrative Case: FROHLICH’S SYNDROME The patient was a stout boy with small genitals. His basal metabolism was —20. His mother was overprotective, strict, and dominant. He tried to play with other boys of his own age (about five), but was unable to compete with them effectively in sports. After a period of distress, he gave up further attempts and instead played with his sister, with other girls, and with smaller boys. He was peaceful and never fought with other children. When he was ten years old, his classmates, some of them nearing puberty, became increasingly rough and teased him about his stoutness and about his playing with girls. About the same time, while in the shower room, some other boys remarked about the smallness of his genitals. He felt bitter and inferior about this. His behavior soon underwent a considerable change. He became disobedient and abusive toward his mother; he beat his sister; he fought with the boys if they called him “sissy”; and started to play games with his classmates, picking quarrels with them frequently.The treatment of the patient at the age of thirteen consisted of the administration of thyroid gland tissue to raise his metabolism to normal, and the injection of a pituitarylike substance. He began to develop normally and lost his stoutness. Both he and his mother needed psychotherapy in addition. The patient’s behavior grew normal in about six months’ time.The factors that influenced this boy’s behavior at various times were these: His metabolism was always low; hence he had a constant “general poverty of drive.” His mother was always oversolicitous. Both of these factors made him inclined to he passive, as did also his difficulty in competing with other boys. When he was five years old, the most painless and gratifying solution was to find pleasure and consolation in playing with girls and with younger children. His experiences at the age of ten—the attitude of the other boys in connection with his body and his passive mode of behavior— hurt his self-esteem deeply. His reaction to this hurt was overaggressiveness, in spite of his “poverty of drive.” Thus we see that this patient’s problems were caused partly by the direct influence of his disturbed metabolism and partly by the reaction of his total personality to his deficiencies. (Maslow and Mittelmann, 1951)

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "FROHLICH’S SYNDROME," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/frohlichs-syndrome-2/ (accessed February 18, 2019).
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