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Title: Some causes of insanity
Author: Steele, Patrick
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1908
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It is only within comparatively recent years that insanity has been accorded its proper place in medicine - that is as a definite physical illness and one requiring therapeutic and hygienic treatment according to the various factors influencing the origin and course of the disease and the signs and symptoms to which they give rise. In the earliest times a lunatic was merely considered as a person possessed of one or more evil spirits and was accordingly subjected to various forms of ill treatment with the object of making the existence and habitation of the spirits as unpleasant as possible and finally driving them out. Then as civilization progressed and demonology gradually lost its hold, the few observers who have left records of their work confined themselves for the most part solely to the study of the various intellectual and mental disturbances in a case, ignoring altogether the numerous physical disorders which in many cases run a corresponding course with the mental illness. Still more recently, as asylums came to be recognised as hospitals in the fullest sense of the word, and as the means at hand for the investigation of the more complex physiological and pathological processes occurring in disease were improved, it became evident that in many cases at any rate, the disturbance of the intellectual functions was nothing more than a sign - by far the most prominent sign - of morbid processes going on in other parts of the organism. Unfortunately we are still in the dark, in the majority of cases, as to what these precise pathological changes are, but the modern treatment of insanity is all directed towards improving the physical health by means of rest in bed, fresh air, suitable dieting and such therapeutical measures as may be deemed necessary, and this is done because it has been found that with betterment of the physical health there is almost always a corresponding improvement in the mental state. This statement, of course, applies principally to those cases of recent origin where irreparable damage has not been done to the brain substance, though even in chronic cases and cases of terminal dementia a condition of physical well being has to a certain extent an influence for good on the mental state. It is of primary importance then, in dealing with a case of insanity, that we should in the first place take a careful history of the patient's physical health both before and during the early stages of his mental illness, and secondly make as careful a physical examination of the patient as may be possible. These steps are taken with a view to finding any possible causes occasioning the mental disturbance and which, for convenience, may be briefly classified under four main headings, as follows: I. Heredity; II. A variety of exciting causes not toxic in origin acting upon an already unstable brain condition; III. Toxaemia; IV. Combinations of any of the above.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (M.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available