Associative relaxation marks the REM dream phase in healthy people. Systematic thought patterns are abolished in associative relaxation and areas of the brain interact unsystematically and affectively. As a symptom of the disease, associative relaxation characterizes delusional diseases such as schizophrenia.
What is Associative Relaxation?
According to abbreviationfinder.org, psychology and psychoanalysis assume that people in learning processes combine the simplest elements in the form of sensory impressions. Associations in this context are connections between two or more actually isolated contents of the psyche, which activate each other when later retrieved and stimulate a chain of associations.
Association learning is therefore a combination of stimuli which, in addition to cognitive connections, includes basic biological forms of learning such as habituation and conditioning. Associative loosening restricts a person’s associative thinking and learning. This means that cognitively meaningful or controlled links between thought contents can no longer arise. The thought rules, thought structures and thought programs of the past are no longer available for patients with associative loosening in a current situation.
Associative relaxation shows effects on different areas of the person. This creates symptoms in the areas of thinking, acting and feeling at the same time. Not only does the associative loosening characterize a wide variety of diseases with delusional symptoms. The process of associative loosening is also related to art processes. The association with the genius of madness derives from this commonality.
Eugen Bleuler described the central phenomena of schizophrenia with associative loosening. In the causal framework of schizophrenia, he attributed the symptoms of formal thought disorders and characteristic affect disorders to the associative relaxation. In addition to schizophrenia, associative loosening can be causally related to impaired impulse control and manias.
In addition, the drug consumption of cannabis and classic hallucinogens such as LSD sometimes leads to associative loosening. Freud also described a high exchange of affects and a cognitively no longer comprehensible assignment of individual contents for the dream state. This phenomenon, too, ultimately corresponds to an associative loosening.
In this way, the primary cause of the associative loosening of the brain can be generalized as an impairment of the regulatory or cognitively stabilizing control. The effect of this impairment deprives affective patterns of their associative retrievability and leads to an increased interchangeability of affects. In the state of cognitive relaxation, new patterns can receive neural fixation and thus change brain processes over the long term.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
Associative loosening is associated with different phenomena. Those affected often show erratic alertness. Typical patterns of action are brought to a resolution. Work processes are no longer carried out appropriately. Associations are no longer dependent on meaning, but rather sound. Grammatical structures slowly dissolve.
Thinking becomes more and more erratic and is often interrupted by tearing off thoughts, flight of ideas or insertions. The patient’s language seems mixed up. They often talk wrong or create more or less incomprehensible new words. The pathological phenomenon of associative loosening is related to free associations that are widespread within the framework of psychoanalysis, within the framework of surrealism and within the framework of brainstorming.
In the case of associative loosening, however, the renunciation of systematic thought is no longer consciously or for a limited time, but occurs beyond control and usually occurs in connection with delusional systematics. As a formal thought disorder, associative relaxation makes content-related thought disorders such as delusion possible in the first place. Without structure and control of the thought processes, reality testing can no longer take place.
Diagnosis & course
The diagnosis of associative loosening is usually made by a psychologist. Usually the symptom is used as evidence of the disease in the diagnosis of higher-level diseases. When making a diagnosis, the psychologist has to distinguish the associative loosening from the higher level, the confusion of whole thought patterns.
The demarcation from delusion also plays a role in diagnostics. On the other hand, the associative loosening can also express an incipient delusion. The prognosis for patients with associative loosening depends on the causal disease. In almost all cases of schizophrenia in particular, the loosening develops into delusional symptoms.
In most cases, the associative loosening leads to different psychological complaints for the patient. Most of the time it is no longer possible for the person concerned to carry out certain tasks or to follow the action of another person. The formation of grammatically correct sentences is also more difficult, so that the patient’s everyday life is severely restricted.
The thoughts often wander and there are severe speech disorders. As a rule, the patient himself does not notice that he is suffering from the associative loosening, but because of the speech disorders he is incomprehensible to other people. There is a strong loss of reality and normal thought processes are no longer possible. The quality of life suffers greatly from the disease.
Treatment of associative loosening takes place with a psychologist. If the patient poses a danger to himself or to other people, this can also be done in a closed clinic. In most cases, drugs are also used to accompany the treatment.
If the complaint arises due to drug abuse, withdrawal must be carried out. There are also various clinics available to the patient for this. With early treatment, the disease always progresses positively.
When should you go to the doctor?
Associative loosening is usually diagnosed by a psychologist. Anyone who suspects the disorder in themselves or others should consult a doctor quickly. This can determine whether it is actually an associative loosening and then diagnose the causative disease. If symptoms of schizophrenia or delusion occur more frequently, a doctor must be called in immediately. This is especially true if the person concerned has already been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Anyone who notices a change in consciousness after using drugs (especially cannabis and classic hallucinogens such as LSD and DMT) should discuss this with their family doctor or a psychologist. Even with existing manias or physical illnesses, any changes in consciousness should be clarified quickly.
Associative loosening almost always indicates a severe course of the original disease. Immediate medical clarification is also important in order to stop the increasing loss of reality and the frequently occurring speech disorders. In any case, a doctor should be consulted if associative loosening is suspected.
Treatment & Therapy
Treatment of patients with associative loosening depends largely on the cause. In many cases, schizophrenia can be alleviated by the administration of antipsychotics. Timely intervention is particularly crucial in this case. Beginning delusional symptoms can be alleviated or even delayed under certain circumstances.
With associative loosening in the context of mania, neuroleptics are often given in acute therapy, which dampen the effect of neurotransmitters and thus block the interchangeability of affects. In the long run, manics are given drugs such as lithium salts, which can dampen and delay future phases. If associative relaxation occurs in the context of drug abuse, this phenomenon can mark the beginning of a drug-related psychosis.
In many cases, withdrawal can no longer stop the process. Even with complete abstinence at the moment, the psychosis can arise as a long-term consequence of drug abuse. All associative loosening can hardly be treated if brain processes have already changed permanently. In such cases, supportive therapy is indicated, which ideally improves the quality of life and everyday life of the patient.
Outlook & forecast
Associative loosening does not have the prospect of a cure. According to the current scientific status, the brain damage is considered irreversible and cannot be remedied with the existing medical possibilities. In most cases, the disease is a concomitant symptom of another underlying disease that has been diagnosed.
The administration of medication or therapy is therefore geared towards the further illnesses of the affected patients. The aim is to alleviate the symptoms and optimize the quality of life. In some cases, cognitive training is achieved with the patient. Overall, this leads to an improvement in memory performance and has positive effects on the retrieval of existing information. Nevertheless, the results achieved are manageable and only provide minimal relief from associative loosening.
The focus of the treatment is on a holistic enhancement of the patient’s existing potential. The development of personality, participation in social and societal life or liberation from an existing alcoholic disease are specifically treated and medically treated. Since the associative loosening cannot be cured under the given conditions, doctors and therapists concentrate on the areas in the patient’s life in which they can achieve a significant improvement in their health.
Associative loosening through drug abuse can be prevented in the form of abstinence. However, since the phenomenon can also occur in the context of schizophrenia and mania, there are hardly any comprehensive preventive measures. Schizophrenia in particular is a clinical picture whose occurrence is related to biological factors, toxic factors, hormonal factors, immunological, perinatal and psychosocial factors. Not all of these can be prevented.
Brain damage causes associative loosening. These are considered incurable, which is why follow-up care cannot prevent recurrence. Instead, doctors try to use long-term treatment to normalize their patients’ everyday lives and rule out complications. The initial diagnosis is usually made by psychologists and psychiatrists.
They also organize the scheduled aftercare. Usually, with the help of medication, attempts are made to remedy the typical symptoms. Some illnesses can be traced back to substance abuse. A therapeutic approach then aims to get rid of these addictive substances first. This often leads to the previous social contact having to be discontinued.
Last but not least, people close to you sometimes encourage harmful behavior. In practice, associative loosening is often associated with ups and downs. That means: phases of recovery are followed by crises. The associative relaxation means that those affected are not aware of their disorder themselves.
If there is a far-reaching loss of reality, the sick person can cause serious harm to himself or to others. In such situations, the relatives are of great importance. You have the task of advising the sick person to see a doctor. This does not always turn out to be easy. In the end, the person concerned does not see himself as sick in his own reality.
You can do that yourself
What those affected can do to improve their well-being in the case of associative loosening depends on the cause of the disorder.
Associative relaxation can be due to continued abuse of mind altering drugs. Regular consumption of cannabis and hallucinogens such as LSD is particularly risky in this context. Those affected should therefore stop using these substances as soon as the first signs of psychological impairment appear and consult a doctor immediately.
If there is already a dependency on these drugs or if the patient cannot control the consumption for other reasons, therapy must be initiated immediately. If drug use is widespread in the near social field, dealing with this group of people should be discontinued or restricted. The social isolation that often accompanies this can be alleviated by exchanging ideas with other affected people in self-help groups on site or virtually on the Internet.
Often those affected are not aware of their disorder themselves. It is then the task of the family environment to confront the patient with his illness and to convince him of the necessity of a visit to the doctor. This is often a challenge that requires a lot of patience from the loved ones. If the patient is completely unreasonable, in the event of severe disturbances, in particular a far-reaching loss of reality that endangers the patient himself or makes him dangerous for others, forced admission to a closed institution may be necessary.