All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for June 2004

Magical Ideation - Defense Mechanism or Neuropathology?. A Study with Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Psychopathology. 2004 Jun 8;37(3):141-144. Epub 2004 Jun 08
Te Wildt BT, Schultz-Venrath U.
Klinische Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Hannover, Deutschland.


The major psychological stress factor in multiple sclerosis (MS) is loss of control of life.

In MS patients with impaired cognition, magical ideation might be a characteristic way of thinking.

Proof for this may be the high frequency of alternative treatments used by individuals with MS.

The study investigates whether the level of magical ideation in MS patients is higher compared to healthy control subjects and, in case of positive confirmation, with which somatic and psychological features it is associated.

Moreover, it is aimed to discuss the modalities of magical ideation in general.

Sampling and Methods:

A German version of the Magical Ideation Scale was validated with a group of 69 healthy subjects.

Ninety-four MS patients were additionally assessed with the Dissociative Experience Scale, the Symptom-Check-List-90-Revised and 5 neuropsychological tests.


The Magical Ideation Scale did not reveal a significant difference between MS patients and healthy controls (p = 0.968).

Among the MS patients, magical ideation shows a correlation neither with age nor with disability, but a positive correlation (p = 0.007; r = 0.329) with the grade of neuropsychological deficiency.

Among the psychological parameters, the highest positive correlation with magical ideation was found in dissociation (p = 0.000; r = 0.520).


Magical ideation, sharing common features with dissociation, can be viewed as an early defense mechanism when perceiving a loss of control of life, particularly in early stages of MS.

In late stages, when developing neuropsychological deficits, it may occur as a substitute for cognitive coping.

The data may encourage clinicians to identify magical ideation.

In young and previously diagnosed patients, it is important to acknowledge helplessness and support a rather rational way of coping.

Training cognitive skills could be crucial to prevent older patients from losing touch with reality.

More generally, the occurrence of a significant amount of magical ideation is discussed both as a psychological and a neurophysiologic regression of thinking.