Isaac G. Briggs.

Epilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia online

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always weak - indecision, obstinacy, and doubt being common.

Treatment. A thorough examination by a doctor is _absolutely essential_, to
prove that the patient is merely hysterical, and not the victim of
unrecognized organic disease. In a few cases, skilled attention to some
minor ailment will result in an apparently miraculous cure.

Many who habitually "go into hysterics", are merely grown-up "spoiled
children", and in all cases, the basic factor is a lack of control and

Unfortunately, these tainted individuals who are so exquisitely sensitive
that any reproof brings floods of tears, turn with mercurial rapidity from
passionate fury to passionate self-reproach, and assuage by impassioned
protestations of affection the distress they have carelessly inflicted,
and, as a consequence of their momentary but undoubtedly sincere
contrition, escape blame and punishment.

Harmful sympathy is thus substituted for helpful discipline, and the more
stable members of the family are often made slaves to the whims and
caprices of the hysterical member.

The usual home treatment of the victim passes through various stages, and
lacks persistence. Violent methods are succeeded by studied indifference;
and that again by reproaches and recriminations.

Greene's remarks are very pertinent: "The condition must be regarded as an
acquired psycho-neurosis to be ameliorated, and perhaps removed, by
suggestion and a complete control, which, though kind, is firm, persistent,
insistent, and _lacking in every element that enters into the upbuilding of
the hysterical temperament_."

For anæmic patients, the following is a useful prescription:

Quininæ valerianatis gr. xx
Ferri valerianatis gr. xx
Ammon. valerianatis gr. xx
Misce et fiant pilulæ no. xx
Sig.: One or two three times a day, after meals.

As far as the minor symptoms are concerned, the disease is usually chronic,
for as soon as one symptom has been overcome another takes its place, and
there is little hope of cure save when the case is taken vigorously in hand
in childhood, treatment being best given in a home or hospital. Home
treatment consists in an attempt to inculcate the lost or never-acquired
habit of self-control, and in the hygienic measures laid down for
neuropaths in general in the rest of this book.

In a major attack, _show no sympathy_. Let every one leave the room, save
one attendant, whom the victim knows to be of firm character, and calm but
determined disposition. This attendant should get a jug of water, and
threaten to douche the victim unless she makes vigorous efforts to control
herself. If she cannot, or will not, _douche her_, then hold a towel over
her nose and mouth, and she will perforce cease her gymnastics to breathe,
though the attendant must be prepared for an outburst of abuse when she has
recovered her breath. Between attacks, all who are brought into contact
with the victim, must adopt a tolerant but unsympathetic attitude, while
efforts are made to inculcate habits of control.

* * * * *



"Great temperance, open air,
Easy labour, little care."

The above quotation epitomizes the cure for neurasthenia, for as Huxley

"Our life, fortune, and happiness depend on our knowing something of
the rules of a game far more complicated than chess, which has been
played since Creation; every man, woman and child of us being one of
the players in a game of our own. The board is the world, the pieces
the phenomena of the universe, while the rules of the game are the laws
of nature. Though our opponent is hidden, we know his play is fair,
just and patient, but we also know to our sorrow that he never
overlooks a mistake or makes the slightest allowance for ignorance. To
the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid with that
overflowing generosity with which the strong show their delight in
strength. The one who plays badly is checkmated; without haste, but
without remorse. Ignorance is visited as sharply a as wilful
disobedience; incapacity meets with the same punishment as crime."

In many cases some real trouble is the best medicine for a neurasthenic,
for though disaster may crush him, it is more likely to act as a spur, by
diverting his thoughts from his woes, and making him fight instead of fret.

Since such blessings in disguise cannot be booked to order, first see a
doctor. Though little be physically wrong, the sense of comfort and relief
from fear, which a clear idea of what _is_ wrong brings, goes a long way
towards cure by giving the patient hope and confidence.

Having seen the doctor, assist him by carrying out the following advice as
far as real limitations - not lazy inclinations - permit. Do not say after
reading this chapter, "I know all that"; you have to _do_ "all that", for
medicine alone, whether patent or prescribed, is useless.

* * * * *

Go for a long sea voyage, if possible.

If not, get a long holiday in a quiet farmhouse, or, better still, get to
the country for good, be it in never so humble a capacity, for a healthy
cowman is happier than a neurasthenic clerk. The rural worker has no
theatres, but he can walk miles without meeting another; he has woods to
roam in, hills to climb, trees to muse under: he has ample light and air,
and his is a far happier lot than that of a vainglorious but miserable,
sedentary machine in a great city.

The rural districts round Braemar, the Channel Islands, Cromer, Deal,
Droitwich, Scarborough, and Weston-super-Mare are, in general, suitable
holiday resorts for neuropaths.

Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee, much meat, all excitement, anger and _worry_.
Take tickets only for comedy at the theatre, and leave lectures, social
gatherings and dances alone.

Nerve-starvation needs generous feeding with easily digested food. Drink
milk in gradually increasing amounts up to half a gallon per day. If more
food is needed, add eggs, custard, fruit, spinach, chicken, or fish, but do
not forgo any milk. Avoid starchy foods and sweets.

Eat only what you can digest, and digest all you eat. Chew every mouthful a
hundred times. This is one of the few sensible food fads.

Drink water copiously between meals, and take no liquid (save the milk)
with them. Keep the bowels open.

If you _must_ "occupy your mind", take up some very simple, quiet hobby.
Gardening, fretwork, photography and gymnastics are not necessarily quiet
hobbies. Chess, billiards, and contortions with gymnastic apparatus are not
to be recommended.

If you _must_ read, peruse only humorous novels. Never study, and leave
exciting fiction and medical work alone. Symptoms are the most misleading
things in a most misleading world.

After your evening meal, take a quiet walk, go to bed _and sleep_. You
should occasionally spend from Saturday midday to Monday morning in bed,
with blinds drawn, living on milk, seeing nobody and doing _nothing_. The
deepest degradation of the Sabbath is to fill it with odd jobs which have
accumulated through the week.

Do not get out of bed too early in the morning, but rise in time to eat
your breakfast slowly, attend to the toilet, and catch the car without
haste. If your occupation be an indoor one, rise an hour earlier, and walk
or cycle quietly to work.

Take a warm bath followed by a cold douche on rising. If no warm after-glow
follows, use tepid water. Keep your body warm; your head cool.

Be continent. Nerve-tone and sexual delights are not compatible. Matrimony,
while a convenient cloak, is no excuse for lust.

Try suggestion for fears and impulses (see Chapter XVIII), for it is
useless to try to "reason them out", though it is useful for a brief period
each day to try deliberately to turn the mind away from the obsession, by
singing or whistling, gradually prolonging the attempts.

Rest, to prevent the manufacture of more waste products, the elimination of
those present, and the generation of nerve-strength from nourishing food
are the things that cure. Chapters XIX and XX deal with the drug treatment.

Do not Worry. Whatever your trouble is, it is useless to

"Look before and after, and sigh for what is not"

for the future cannot be rushed nor the past remedied. All patients reply
promptly that they "can't help" worrying, when in truth they do not try.

Work never hurt anyone, but harassing preoccupation with problems which no
amount of thought will solve drives many thousands to early graves. Anger
exhausts itself in a few minutes, fatigue in a few hours, and real overwork
with a week's rest, but worry grows ever worse. Ponder Meredith's lines:

"I _will_ endure; I will not strive to peep
Behind the barrier of the days to come."

"Look on the bright side!" said an optimist to a melancholy friend.

"But there is no bright side."

"Then polish up the dull one!" was the sound advice tendered.

_Learn to forget_!

One cannot open a periodical without being exhorted to train one's memory
for a variety of reasons. The neuropath needs a system of forgetfulness.
Lethe is often a greater friend than Mnemosyne.

To brood on disappointments, failures and griefs only wastes energy, sours
temper, and upsets the general health. Resolve _beforehand_ that when
unhappy ideas arise you will _not_ dwell on them, but turn your thoughts to
pleasant trifles; take up a humorous book, or take a turn in the fresh air,
and you will soon acquire the habit of laughing instead of whining at Fate.

To sum up: Go slow! Your neurons have been exhausted in your foolish
attempt to "live this day as if thy last" in a wrong sense; feverish
activity and unnecessary work must be abandoned to enable the nerves to

When the doctor says "rest", he means "_rest_", not change your bustle from
work to what you are pleased to regard as play.

So much is _absolute rest_ recognized as the foundation of treatment, that
severe cases undergo the "Weir-Mitchell Treatment". The patient is _utterly
secluded_; letters, reading, talking, smoking and visits from friends are
forbidden. He is put to bed, not allowed even to sit up, sees no one save
nurse and doctor, is massaged, treated electrically, grossly overfed,
fattened up, and freed from every care.

In leaving his habitual circle, the patient escapes the too-attentive care
of his relatives, and the incessant questions about his complaint with
which they overwhelm him. The results of this régime with semi-insane
wrecks are marvellous. It is a very drastic but very successful
"rest-cure", and while it cannot be undergone at home, neurasthenics will
benefit by following its principles as far as they can in their own homes.

High-frequency or static electricity sometimes works wonders in the hands
of a specialist, but the electric batteries, medical coils, finger-rings
and body-belts so persistently advertised are _useless_.

When the patient has in some measure recuperated, he may try the following
exercises in mental concentration. Vittoz claims good results from them,
but they must be done quite seriously.

1. Walk a few steps with the definite idea that you are putting forward
right and left feet alternately. Go on by easy stages until you
concentrate on the movement of the whole body.

2. Take any object in your hand, and note its exact form, weight,
colour, etc.

3. Look in a shop-window while you count ten, and as you walk on, try
to recall all the objects therein exhibited.

4. Accustom yourself to defining the sounds you hear, and concentrating
on a special one, as that of a passing tram, or a ticking watch.

5. Make a rapid examination several times daily of your feelings and
thoughts, and try to express them definitely.

6. Concentrate on the mental reproduction of a regular curve: a figure
8 placed on its side.

7. Listen to a metronome, and, a friend having stopped it, mentally
repeat the ticking to time.

8. Whenever you handle anything, try to retain the impression of that
object and its properties for several minutes, to the exclusion of
other ideas.

9. Concentrate on ideas of calm, and of energy controlled.

10. Place three objects on a sheet of white paper. Remove them one by
one, at the same time effacing the impression of each one as it is
removed, until the mind, like the paper, is blank.

11. Efface two of the objects, and retain the impression of one only.

12. Replace the impressions in your mind, but not the objects on the
paper, one by one.

The object of these exercises is to get your wandering mind daily a little
more under control; do not exhaust yourself.

After some months of treatment, ask yourself -

Am I able to walk ten miles with ease? when introduced to a stranger of
either sex or any age, to converse agreeably, profitably and without
embarrassment? to entertain visitors so that all enjoy themselves? to read
essays or poetry with as much pleasure as a novel? to listen to a lecture,
and be able afterwards to rehearse the main points? to be good company for
myself on a rainy day? to submit to insult, injustice or petulance with
dignity and patience, and to answer them wisely and calmly? When you are
able to answer, "Yes!" to these queries, your nerves are sound.

* * * * *



"All sick people want to get well, but rarely in the best way. A 'jolly
good fellow' said: 'Strike at the root of the disease, Doctor!' And
smash went the whisky bottle under the faithful physician's cane."

In neuropaths, all irritation to the nervous system is dangerous, and must
be eliminated, and to this end, eyes, ears, nose and teeth, all in close
touch with nerves and brain, must be put and kept in perfect order.

The Eye. Only 4 per cent, of people have _perfect_ sight. Errors in
refraction - common in neuropaths - mean that the unstable brain-cells are
constantly irritated. Dodd corrected eye-errors in 52 epileptics, 36 of
whom showed improvement.

You take your watch to a watchmaker, not a chemist; take your eyes to an
oculist, and if you cannot afford to see one privately, get an eye-hospital
note. (To allow a chemist or "optician" to try lenses until he finds a pair
through which you "see better" is very dangerous.)

Then you go to a qualified optician, who makes a proper frame, and inserts
the lenses prescribed. Patients should inquire if the glasses are to be
worn continually, or only when doing close work or reading.

The Ears. Giddiness and other unpleasant symptoms may be due to ear
trouble. If there is any discharge, buzzing or ringing, see a doctor, for
if ear disease gains a firm hold it is usually incurable.

The Nose. Neuropaths often suffer from moist nasal catarrh, or from a dry
type in which crusts of offensive mucus form, the disagreeable odour of
which is not apparent to the patient himself. He must pay careful attention
to the general health, take nourishing food, and wash out the nose three
times a day with:

1 oz. Bicarbonate of Soda,
1 oz. Common Salt,
1 oz. Borax,
Dissolved in 1 pint hot water.

For obstinate nasal trouble, consult an aural surgeon.

The Teeth.

"Most men dig their graves with their teeth." - Chinese Proverb.

Serious ills are caused by defective teeth, for microbes decompose the food
left in the crevices to acid substances which dissolve the lime salts from
the teeth, and this process continues until the tooth is lost.

Faulty teeth are common in neuropaths, and at the risk of being
wearisome - and good advice is wearisome to people - patients must get proper
aid, privately or at a dental hospital, from a _registered dentist_, who,
like a doctor, does not advertise.

Teeth gone beyond recall will be painlessly extracted, those going,
"stopped", and tartar or scale scraped off. If necessary, have artificial
teeth, but remember that the comfort of a plate depends upon skilled
workmanship, not on gold or platinum. Everyone should visit the dentist as
a matter of routine once a year.

Buy 3 ozs. Precipitated Chalk,
1 oz. Chlorate of Potash,

and brush the teeth with this mixture ere going to bed; use tepid water
after meals. Do not brush across, but, holding the brush horizontally,
brush with a circular motion, cleaning top and bottom teeth at once. Use a
moderately hard brush with a curved surface which fits the teeth.

After each meal, it is essential to cleanse the interstices between the
teeth with a quill toothpick or dental floss, never with a pin, for it is
the decomposition of tiny particles that starts decay; _a tooth never
decays from within_.

1½ fl. oz. Glycerine,
1 fl. oz. Carbolic Acid,
½ fl. oz. Methylated Chloroform.

With ten drops of this mixture in a wineglassful of tepid water, wash out
your mouth and gargle your throat after every meal, sending vigorous waves
between the teeth, and so removing any particles left by toothpick and

Children should be taught these habits as soon as they can eat, for the
custom of a lifetime is easy.

* * * * *



"We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends, we may live without books,
But civilized man cannot live without cooks."

The human digestive system consists of a long tube, in which food is
received, nutriment taken from it as it passes slowly downwards, and from
which waste is discharged, in from sixteen to thirty hours afterwards.

Six glands pour saliva into the mouth, where it should be - but how rarely
is - mixed with the food, causing chemical changes, and moistening the bolus
to pass easily down.

The acid Gastric Juice, of which a quart is secreted daily, stops the
action of the saliva, and commences to digest the proteins, which pass
through several stages, each a little more assimilable than the last.

The lower end of the stomach contracts regularly and violently, churning
the food with the juice, and gradually squirting it, when liquified to
Chyme, into the small intestine. If food is not chewed until almost
liquified, the gastric juice cannot act normally, but has to attack as much
of the surface of the food-lump as possible, leaving the interior to
decompose, causing dyspepsia and flatulence.

Most people suppose the stomach finishes digestion, but it only initiates
the digestion of those foodstuffs which contain nitrogen, leaving fats,
starches and sugars untouched.

By an obscure process, the acid chyme stimulates the walls of the bowel to
send a chemical messenger, a Hormone through the blood to the liver and
pancreas, warning them their help is needed, whereupon they actively
secrete their ferments.

The secretion of the pancreas is very complex. It carries on the work of
the saliva, and also splits insoluble fats into a soluble milky emulsion.

Fats are unaffected in the mouth and stomach, which explains why hot,
buttered toast, and other hot, greasy dishes are so indigestible. The
butter on plain bread is quickly cleared off, and the bread attacked by the
gastric juice, but in toast or fatty dishes, the fat is intimately mixed
with other ingredients, none of which can properly be dealt with. Always
butter toast when cold.

To continue: The secretion of the pancreas also contains a very active
ferment, which, on entering the bowel, meets and mixes with another ferment
four times as powerful as gastric juice, which completes the digestion of
the proteids.

Meantime, the secretions of Lieberkühn's glands (of which there are immense
numbers in the small intestine) are further aiding the digestion of the
chyme, while the liver (the largest and most important gland in the body)
sends its ferments, and the gall-bladder its bile, which further emulsifies
the fatty acids and glycerin until they are ready to be absorbed.

The chemically-changed chyme is now termed Chyle, and is ready to be
absorbed by the minute, projecting Villi.

The fatty portion of the chyle is absorbed by minute capillaries and
ultimately mingles with the blood, which may look quite milky after a fatty

The remaining food is absorbed by the blood capillaries in the villi, and
passes to the liver for filtration and storage.

The large bowel has Lieberkühn's glands, but not villi, and is relatively
unimportant, though most of the water the body needs is absorbed from here.

How food becomes energy and tissue we do not know. The tissues are
continually being built up from assimilated food, and as constantly being
burnt away, oxygen for this purpose being extracted from the air we inhale,
and carried via the blood to every corner of the body. The ashes of this
burning are expelled into the blood and lymph, and carried out of the body
by the kidneys, lungs, skin and bowels. The product of the burning is the
marvel - Life; the extinction of the fire is the terror - Death.

Energy is obtained almost solely from the combustion of fats and sugars,
proteids being reconverted into albumin, and then broken down to obtain
their carbon for combustion, the nitrogen being expelled, but proteids are
essential for the building of the tissues themselves, the stones of the
furnaces which burn up carbohydrates and fats.

The time taken in the digestion of foods was first studied through a wound
in the stomach of St. Martin, a Canadian. Experiments were made with
various well-masticated foods, and with similar foods placed unchewed, into
the stomach through the wound, the latter experiment being carried out by
millions of people at every meal, by a slightly different route.

Boiled food is more easily digested than fried or roasted (the frying pan
should be anathema to a neuropath); lean meat than fat; fresh than salt;
hot meat than cold; full-grown than young animals, though the latter are
more tender; white flesh than red; while lean meat is made less, and fat
meat more digestible, by salting or broiling. Oily dishes, hashes, stews,
pastries and sweetmeats are hard to digest. Bread should be stale, and
toasted crisply _right through_. The time, compared with the thoroughness
of digestion, is of little importance, as it varies widely within
physiologic bounds.

Most people fancy that the more they eat the stronger they become, whereas
the digestion of all food beyond that actually needed to repair the waste
due to physical and mental effort consumes priceless nerve energy, and
weakens one. The greater part of excessive food has literally to be _burnt
away_ by the body, which causes great strain, mainly on the muscles. The
question is not: "How much can I eat?" but: "How much do I need?"

* * * * *



"We know how dismal the world looks during a fit of indigestion, and
what a host of evils disappear as the abused stomach regains its tone.
Indigestion has lead to the loss of battles; it has caused many crimes,
and inspired much sulphurous theology, gloomy poetry and bitter
satire." - Hollander.

The nervous dyspeptic suffers no marked pain, but often feels a "sinking",
has no appetite, and cannot enjoy life because his stomach, though sound,
does not get enough nerve-force to run it properly.

A great deal of nerve-force is required for digestion, and if a man comes
to the table exhausted, bolts his food, uses nerve-force scheming while he
is bolting, and, immediately he has bolted a given amount, rushes off to
work, digestion is imperfectly performed, nutriment is not assimilated, the
nerve-force supply becomes deficient. He continues to overdraw his account
in spite of the doctor's warning, and stomachic bankruptcy occurs, followed
by a host of ills.

Nervous dyspepsia is a very obstinate complaint, but if tackled resolutely,
it can to a great extent be mitigated; but let it be emphasized at once,
that medicines, patent or otherwise, are useless. If dyspepsia be
aggravated by other complaints, these should receive appropriate treatment,
but the assertions so unblushingly made in patent-pill advertisements are
unfounded. The very variety of the advertised remedies is proof of the
uselessness of all.

Set aside certain periods three times a day for meals. Fifteen minutes
before meal times, sit in a comfortable chair, relax all your muscles,
close the eyes, and try to make the mind a blank. _Rest_!

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