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History of Psychiatry

History of Psychiatry

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Published by: Ema on Aug 15, 2011
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PGY II Lecture9/18/03Larry Merkel M.D., Ph.D.
The history of western psychiatry may be viewed from manydirections: the train of scientific advancements that have brought it to itspresent level of technology; the flow of underlying philosophical assumptionsand tenets, especially the relation of mental and physical phenomenon, acrosstime; the influence of social and religious institutions on mental illness andthe field of psychiatry; the development of the different modern schools ofpsychiatric and psychological practice; and the actual place and treatment ofthe mentally ill in society. I will touch on all of these briefly. The studyof this area necessitates an appreciation of the history of science, historyin general, literature, the social sciences, and philosophy. This results ina vast area of consideration. Many things will only be briefly mentioned. Iwill follow a roughly chronological approach, discussing each of the abovethemes where possible.
Pre-Classical and Classical Influences:
Most non-western and probably earlywestern cultures distinguish between natural and supernatural causes ofillness and hardship, not isolating what would be presently considered mentalillness. Methods are culturally designated for the understanding and responseto these events. All societies recognize episodes of extremely aberrantbehavior, which we would consider madness or insanity. The evidence for veryearly aspects of mental illness in western society is little and limited.Nonetheless, some indications can be addressed.Egyptian and ancient Middle Eastern influences can be seen, often asthey were incorporated into Greek culture. For instance the importance ofdreams and dream interpretation. The Judaic tradition, as evidenced in Judaicscripture, saw insanity as the result of heredity, physiology, improper sexualbehavior, failure to uphold ritual prescriptions, idleness, but mostimportantly as a punishment from God directly or through the agency of evilspirits or demons, as in the story of Saul. Those with mental illness appearto have been treated with benevolence, similar to children, but they wereoften feared and avoided if violent. Laws were instituted for their care andlimiting their responsibilities and obligations. These beliefs and practicesplay an important role in later Christian beliefs.Much of western beliefs about mental functioning can be traced to Greekand Roman sources. As seen through mythology and the Homeric and other epics,mental illness was often seen as directly due to the involvement of the godsin early Greece. Likewise, cures were also seen as coming from the gods. Arelationship can be seen in later Greek literature between moral failure andinsanity, such as the gods punishing someone for arrogance. There is also asense of madness as emotional imbalance due to events or trauma. Both ofthese may be seen in the Greek tragedies. There is an increasing emphasis onachieving a balance between emotions or passions and reason.The increasing emphasis on natural knowledge and an equal de-emphasis ofthe role of the gods occurs in the 5
and 6
centuries B.C. These continueinto the theories of Hippocrates in the 4
century B.C. who believed thatillness was the result of an imbalance between the four bodily humors: blood,black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm, which correspond to the four basicqualities of matter: heat, cold, moisture, and dryness. A predominance of one
element also determined basic character types. He further argued thatcertain illnesses, especially epilepsy were not divine, but nervous illnesses.Madness was often seen as a disturbance of black bile (
melaina chole
) or latermelancholia. Hysteria was attributed to the movement of the uterus. As aconsequence of these beliefs, treatment was aimed at restoring hormonalbalance through the use of purgative, vapors, baths, and special diets. Theseideas formed the center of much of medicine until the 17
century.The philosophy underlying these beliefs saw people as endowed withcharacteristics at birth that needed education and training to be fulfilled.There was an increasing acceptance of natural laws. Passion and immoralitywere increasingly seen as derived from the interaction of natural laws(
) and the influence of irrational customs (
). For instance Plato(428-348 B.C.) saw the
or soul as active and immortal. The
hadthree parts: appetite, reason, and temper. Irrational behavior was seen as aninevitable part of human life, to be overcome by reason. Illness came from aloss of balance between the
and the body or
, or through self-deception. Reason and rational thought are the highest of virtues. Whereasthe body was temporary and of secondary importance.Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) the student of Plato, accepted the humoraltheory of Hippocrates, taking it further seeing that bile mediated between themind and the body. Whereas Platonic ideas emphasized a division betweenmind/soul and body, Aristotelian ideas recognized more of an interactionbetween these entities. He also taught knowledge was the direct consequenceof the senses, rather than innate or divinely given. This exemplifies theinteraction between mind and body. He emphasized experience and empiricalknowledge. In a parallel manner, he emphasized the role of ritual intreatment, providing by catharsis.During the Hellenistic period, with the spread of Greek culture throughthe Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean region, there was a growth ofboth rationalistic religion and mystery cults. Both focused on individualsalvation. Eastern ideas entered the western tradition from India and theMiddle East. Important centers for learning and experimentation developed,especially at Alexandria. Here a school of anatomy developed that argued fordifferent functional areas in the brain.Although most of the evidence is indirect and scant, the actualtreatment of those with mental illness appears to have been relatively humaneand there was little stigma, as we now understand it. Often those with mentalillness were given special accord, being seen as partially sacred in theirsuffering. On the other hand there is some evidence that the mentally illwere met with ridicule, avoidance, and censure.2The Romans borrowed and expanded on Greek ideas and beliefs. They werea very practical society, specializing in engineering, warfare and legalmatters. There is evidence of the legal status of those with mental illness.Their rights and freedoms were limited, but there is no evidence of harshtreatment or marked stigma. Asclepiades (1
century BC) building on theatomic hypothesis of Democritus, rather than the humors, distinguishedphrenitis (metal excitement with fever) from mania (mental excitement withoutfever) and advocated treatments consisting of the use of light, diet, music,intellectual stimulation, and physiotherapy. Stoic philosophers and otherhealers emphasized the control of rational thought over emotions and passions.The most famous of Roman physicians, Galen (130–200 A.D.) was influenced byHippocrates, the Anatomic School of Alexandria, and Stoic Philosophy,advancing a humoral theory of illness. He described several syndromes
including dysthymia, paranoia, and the role of sexual tension and anxiety inhysteria. He developed a system of spirits (forces), beginning with physicalspirits, associated with the liver and modified through digestive andreproductive functions to become vital spirits, associated with the heart andmodified through circulatory and respiratory functions to become animal orpsychic spirits, associated with the brain and nerves. Emotional disturbancewas not due to failure of reason, but due to an imbalance between aspects ofthe soul, which had rational, irrational, and lustful parts.Therapy during Roman times appears to have consisted mostly of humaneconfinement, decreased exposure to stimuli, and the encouragement of reading,education, and participation in drama. Whether this was only for the upperclasses or extended to the population as a whole is unclear. In addition agreat deal of healing took place at the temples of Apollo, through the Cult ofAsclepian. Sufferers would enter the temple, undergo purification rituals,take special diets, and use narcoleptic fumigations that would induce sleep.Music was also used to sooth and create the right atmosphere. During thedream the god Asclepian would appear and produce a cure. There are manytablets surviving that attest to cures.
 Middle Ages:
With the ascendancy of Christianity to predominance in the RomanEmpire and the later collapse of the Roman Empire, Christian dogma became thebasis of philosophical inquiry in the west. Platonic ideas were combined withChristian teachings, creating a worldview that dominated in the west forseveral centuries. St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) championed Platonicconceptions of the mind, including the essential dichotomy between body andmind/soul. The mind was seen as having three parts: reason, memory, and will,while memory, in turn, had three parts: the unconscious, the preconscious, andthe associative. Posidonius, in the 4
century, postulated three divisionsof the brain with imagination in the forebrain, understanding in the midbrain,and memory in the hindbrain. There were efforts to build a correspondencebetween the humoral theories of Hippocrates and Galen and Christian belief.Psychological issues were seen within a theological and moral framework.Medieval concepts of mental illness stressed that individuals had free willand were responsible for their actions, but that illness (including mentalillness) came from sin and resulting punishment from God or possession by thedevil. Theological and humoral concepts were not incompatible in thattheological precepts addressed ultimate causes of illness, i.e., why a certainperson became ill, rather than specific mechanisms of illness. Thusmelancholia was seen as a trial of faith. Mental illness was seen as eitherthe result of sin or as a test of faith. For instance of the seven deadlysins – pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth – sloth(
) had a clinical profile, presenting with boredom, depression,obsessions, anxiety, and a variety of psychosomatic symptoms. It wasespecially seen to inflict isolated monks, novices struggling to achievespiritual ends, and hermits. Isolation was felt to contribute to it and itwas treated with prayer, community involvement, and work. Since sin wascentral to mental illness, religious activity was central to cure. Mentalillness was seen as alienation from God, thus return to God was essential forcure. Treatises were written on pastoral guidance. Confession and penancewere essential to the cure. Certain monasteries became centers for thetreatment of mental illness, as well as other illnesses, which were also seenas due to lack of faith and sin. In addition, earlier treatments usingpurgatives, bloodletting, and such practices as trepanation were continued.3During the High Middle Ages, from the 11
century on, there was a

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