BACKGROUND: Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) is a rare neurological condition, characterised by rigidity in the trunk and limbs. Comorbid anxiety is common and known to exacerbate stiffness.
OBJECTIVE: This case study examines the extent to which psychological treatment of comorbid anxiety alleviated stiffness in a patient whose condition was exacerbated by social anxiety.
METHODS: A patient was treated using cognitive behavioural therapy, focussing on reducing anxiety and therefore stiffness by addressing rumination, self-focussed attention, and distressing cognitions relating to walking in public. The patient's walking, stiffness, and anxiety were assessed during and post-therapy using questionnaires. RESULTS: Walking, stiffness, and anxiety improved during treatment. At five months' follow up, while the improvement in anxiety was maintained, walking and stiffness had deteriorated. The patient and his Neurologist felt that this deterioration was biological, rather than psychological in nature.
CONCLUSIONS: This is the first published case where SPS has been ameliorated (albeit temporarily) using psychological therapy, and has important implications for future research and treatment.