American madness : the rise and fall of dementia praecox by Richard Noll

By Richard Noll

2012 BMA scientific e-book Award, hugely recommended in Psychiatry, British clinical Association

2012 Cheiron ebook Prize, Cheiron, foreign Society for the heritage of the Behavioral and Social Sciences

In 1895 there has been now not a unmarried case of dementia praecox suggested within the usa. by way of 1912 there have been tens of millions of individuals with this analysis locked up in asylums, hospitals, and jails. via 1927 it used to be fading away . How may possibly this kind of bad illness be stumbled on, have an effect on such a lot of lives, after which change into whatever else?

In brilliant aspect, Richard Noll describes how the invention of this mysterious disease gave wish to the overworked asylum medical professionals that they can eventually explain--though they can no longer cure--the depressing sufferers surrounding them. the tale of dementia praecox, and its eventual alternative by way of the hot inspiration of schizophrenia, additionally finds how asylum physicians fought for his or her personal respectability. If what they have been watching used to be a illness, then this organic truth used to be amenable to medical study. within the early 20th century, dementia praecox used to be psychiatry's key into an more and more science-focused scientific profession.

But for the instant, not anything can be performed to aid the victims. whilst the concept that of schizophrenia provided a clean realizing of this affliction, and wish for a therapy, psychiatry deserted the outdated affliction for the hot. during this dramatic tale of a vanished analysis, Noll exhibits the co-dependency among a ailment and the clinical prestige of the occupation that treats it. The ghost of dementia praecox haunts state-of-the-art debates in regards to the most up-to-date new release of psychiatric issues

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Extra info for American madness : the rise and fall of dementia praecox

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On the initial page started upon admission there often would be the expected personal information—name, address, family contacts, occupation, and so on— and a word or a phrase indicating the probable cause of the patient’s insanity (disappointed affections, religious excitement, masturbation, fright and ner vous shock, overwork, menstruation, intemperance, grief, childbirth, financial misfortune, and heredity were common) and perhaps a diagnosis (usually some form of mania, melancholia, dementia, or idiocy) accentuated by a variety of modifiers (“acute,” “terminal,” and so on), but it really didn’t matter: the fact that a person was judged insane, not that he or she had a particular diagnosis, was the main thing.

40 Very few institutions for the insane had pathologists or laboratory facilities for the analysis of blood, urine, feces, or sputum. But in 1896 there were very few diagnostic examinations or analyses to be made anyway, at least none for conditions that could be treated or cured in an asylum. Basic scientific “instruments of precision” (as equipment such as thermometers and microscopes were called) were practically nonex istent, and medical tools were in short supply. Hypodermic needles were often reused with little or no attempt at proper sterilization.

Unlike the vast majority of American alienists, he insisted that they either already have a good reading knowledge of German and French or develop it in their (few) spare hours, when not engaged in both clinical and laboratory work at Worcester. This eventually opened the world of European psychiatry to the Americans, and many who would go on to form the elite class of American psychiatry in the early twentieth century were able to do so in part because they could read German and French psychiatric texts; some even became proficient enough to translate them into English.

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