Of 33 patients with psychogenic cough tic, 31 were successfully treated using an unusual reinforced suggestion technique. The cough usually follows an incidental upper respiratory tract infection and persists as a loud paroxysmal barking or honking sound for weeks to months. Paroxysms occur all day but cease with sleep. The diagnosis is often delayed for weeks to months while the patient is exposed to an increasing intensity of diagnostic procedures and therapy. Thirty percent of some 20 patients previously reported in the literature had been hospitalized. The reinforced suggestion technique depends upon the physician's convincing the patient that the persistent cough has weakened the chest muscles, which are now unable to contain the cough, and that a bedsheet tightly wrapped around the chest will provide the necessary support to stop the cough within 24 to 48 hours. The typical patient can produce the cough on command, has an ambivalent response to the prospect of care, is unconcerned about his symptoms, submits willingly to the examination and procedures, and is kept out of school for the duration of the cough. Findings on physical examination are normal except for abnormal gag and corneal reflexes. The gag reflex was depressed in six and absent in 20 of the 31 patients. The corneal reflex was depressed in 16 and absent in 5 of the 31 patients. These abnormal responses help to corroborate the psychogenic etiology. Early recognition of the nonorganic nature of this syndrome will reduce parental anxiety, loss of school time, risk of iatrogenic complications, and unnecessary medical and hospital expense.
- Received May 28, 1983.
- Accepted October 4, 1983.
- Copyright © 1984 by the American Academy of Pediatrics