PHANTOM REACTION

A psychological disturbance occurring in individuals who have lost a limb or other body part. The reaction consists of various annoying or painful sensations and a feeling, for a time at least, that the missing member is still there.Phantom phenomena are explained by the fact that every individual forms an image of his own body as a whole, and this image persists when he is deprived of part of his anatomy. Significantly, people who are bom with a limb missing, or who undergo amputation very early in life, do not experience phantom reactions. On the other hand, studies of amputees have revealed that 98 per cent experienced a persistent feeling that the limb was still there after the operation (Noyes and Kolb, 1963).Definite feelings are localized in the phantom limb. Most common is a mild tingling; but a pins-and-needles sensation may also be aroused by touching the stump. If disease occurs in other organs, such as the stomach, pain is sometimes felt in the phantom limb.As time goes on an emotionally healthy amputee will automatically revise his body concept. The phantom appendage gradually appears to shrink and finally disappears, although manipulation of the stump may produce a sensation of movement in the missing extremity long afterward.In some cases intensely annoying or painful sensations may be localized in the nonexistent limb, especially sensations of twisting, pulling, burning, or itching. If these sensations continue, it usually indicates that the patient is having difficulty in accepting his defect and adjusting to a prosthetic limb—or that he is experiencing acute family and occupational problems as a result of his loss. Occasionally the painful sensations are associated with fantasies concerning the disposal of the amputated limb.These patients usually benefit from psychological treatment. The particular form of therapy is determined by the extent and nature of the disturbance. The techniques most commonly used are narcotherapy, hypnosis, electroshock, or suggestion accompanied by tranquilizing drugs.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "PHANTOM REACTION," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/phantom-reaction/ (accessed March 20, 2019).
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