Isaac G. Briggs.

Epilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia online

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in fact they get a reasonable amount of sleep, and indeed often keep others
awake by their snoring.

When you wake, _get up_, for a second sleep does no good. When some one, on
seeing the narrow camp-bed in which Wellington slept, said: "There is no
room to turn about in it," the Iron Duke replied: "When a man begins to
turn about in his bed it is time he turned out of it."

The only safe narcotic is a day's hard work. For severe insomnia consult a
doctor; do not take drugs - that way lies ruin. By taking narcotics, or
patent remedies containing powerful drugs, you will easily get sleep - for a
time only - and then fall a slave to the drug. Such victims may be seen in
dozens in any large asylum.

* * * * *



"The surest way to health, say what they will
Is never to suppose we shall be ill;
Most of the ailments we poor mortals know
From doctors and imagination flow."
- Churchill.

"Men may die of imagination,
So depe may impression be take."
- Chaucer.

"Suggestion is the introduction into the mind of a practical belief
that works out its own fulfilment." - Guyau.

Man suffers from no purely imaginary ills, for mental ills are as real as
physical ills, and though an individual be ailing simply because he
persuades himself he is ailing, his mind so affects his body that he is
actually unwell physically, though the cause of his trouble is purely

The suffering of this world is out of all proportion to its actual disease,
many people being tortured by fancied ills. Some dread a certain complaint
because a relative has died of it.

Others are unwell, but while taking proper treatment they brood gloomily,
and get worse instead of better as they should and _could do_.

Cheap medical and pseudo-medical works are not an unmixed blessing, for
many a person who knows, and needs to know, nothing about disease, gets
hold of one, and soon has most of the ills known to the faculty and some
which are not.

If a patient be an optimist and persuades himself he is improving, he
_does_ improve. This is the explanation of "Faith moving mountains", for
the curative power of prayer, Christian Science, laying-on of hands,
suggestion treatment and patent medicine, depends on man's own faith, not
on the supernatural.

A doctor in whom a patient has perfect confidence, will do him far more
good with the same medicines, or even with no medicines at all, than one of
riper experience in whose skill he has no faith.

Eloquent, though often inaccurate accounts of the benefits derived from
patent medicines are persistently advertised until the mind is so
influenced by the constant reiteration of miraculous cures, that, either
because the healing forces of the body are thereby stimulated, or because
the disease is curable by suggestion, the patient is benefited by such

Thinking of pain makes it worse and vice versa.

The curative effects of auto-suggestion were demonstrated at the Siege of
Breda in 1625. The garrison was on the point of surrender when a learned
doctor eluded the besiegers, and got in with some minute phials of an
extraordinary Eastern Elixir, one drop of which taken after each meal cured
all the ills flesh was heir to; two drops were fatal.

The "learned doctor" was a quick-witted soldier, and the elixir was
_coloured water_ sold by order of the commander. Its potency was due to the
faith of all, who persuaded each other they were getting better, and an
epidemic of infectious wellness followed ills due to depressed spirits.

One man after reading a list of symptoms said in great alarm: "Good
Heavens. I have got that disease!" and, on turning the page, found it
was... _pregnancy_.

As the great Scotch physiologist, Reid, said seventy years ago:

"Hope and joy promote the surface circulation of the body, and the
elimination of waste matter and thus make the body capable of
withstanding the causes which lead to disease, and of resisting it when
formed. Grief, anguish and despair enfeeble the circulation, diminish
or vitiate the secretions, favour the causes which induce disease, and
impede the action of the mechanism by which the body may get rid of its
maladies. An army when flushed with victory and elated with hope
maintains a comparative immunity from disease under physical privations
and sufferings which, under the opposite circumstances of defeat and
despair, produce the most frightful ravages."

The classic description of the woeful effects of imagination is in Jerome's
"Three Men in a Boat". Harris, having a little time on his hands, strolls
into a public library, picks up a medical work, and discovers he has every
affliction therein mentioned, save housemaid's knee. He consults a doctor
friend and is given a prescription. After an argument with an irate
chemist, he finds he has been ordered to take beefsteak and porter, and not
meddle with matters he does not understand. A sounder prescription never
was penned.

* * * * *



"To purge the veins
Of melancholy, and clear the heart
Of those black fumes that make it smart;
And clear the brain of misty fogs
Which dull our senses, our souls clog."
- Burton.

Hypnosis and suggestion have suffered from those people who put back every
reform many years - quacks and cranks - for while science, with open mind,
was testing this new treatment, the quacks exploited it up hill and down

Yet there is nothing supernatural in suggestion, for we employ it on
ourselves and others every hour we live. Conscience consists only of the
countless stored-up suggestions of our education, which by opposing any
contrary suggestions, cause uneasiness.

Many of us conform through life to the suggestions of others, affection,
awe, hero-worship and fear taking the place of reason.

The most resolute of men are influenced by tactful suggestions, which
quietly "tip-toe" on to the margin of consciousness, awaken ideas which
link up more and more associations, until an avalanche is started which
forces itself on to the field of consciousness, the subject thinking the
idea is his own.

Author and actor try by suggestion to make us think, laugh, or weep at
their will, books are sold by suggestive titles, and many clothes are worn
only to suggest wealth or respectability.

The best salesman is he who by artful suggestion sells us what we do not
want; the best buyer he who by equally astute suggestion makes the seller
part at a price which makes him regret the bargain the moment it is closed.

Suggestion treatment is of great use in curing nervous states and bad
habits, and all neuropaths should practice self- or auto-suggestion. In
severe cases a specialist must give the treatment.

The patient is taken by the neurologist to a cosy, restfully-furnished,
half-lighted room, and placed in a huge easy chair facing a cheery fire. He
sinks into the depths of the chair, relaxes every muscle, allows his
thoughts to wander pleasantly, and soon his brain is at rest, and his mind,
undisturbed by the fears which usually harass it, is ready to receive

The doctor talks quietly, soothingly, but with the conviction born of
knowledge to the patient about his trouble, assuring him that he _can_
control his cravings; that he _can_ put away the doubts or fears that have
grown upon him. The true reason of his illness is pointed out, any little
organic factors given due weight, and the idea that it is hereditary or due
to Fate dispelled. Faults of character, reasoning and living are
unsparingly exposed and appropriate remedies suggested, and he is shown how
unmanly his self-torturing reproaches are, and how futile is remorse unless
transmuted into reform.

The doctor's earnestness inspires confidence, and the patient unburdens his
secret troubles, discusses means of remedying them, and turns from pain to
promise, from remorse to resolve, from introspection to action, from
dreading to doing.

Struck by the way the psycho-analyst reads his soul and lays bare petty
meannesses, impressed by the patient thoroughness with which the doctor
attends to each little symptom, confident that organic troubles - if there
be any - will receive appropriate treatment, ready to carry out
instructions, and disposed to believe the new treatment is of real value:
under all these circumstances, the physician's suggestions carry very great
weight with the patient.

The resolutions passed by the victim in this calm state sink deep into
subconsciousness, and when next temptation, impulse or fear assails him,
his own resolutions and the doctor's suggestions are so vividly recalled
that he tries to control his thoughts, and, in due time he "wins out".

Anyone may induce the calm state, and repeat suitable suggestions. The
patient should go to a quiet room, and, reclining on a comfortable couch
before a cheery fire, close the eyes, relax the muscles, breathe deeply,
and avoid all sense of strain.

The next step is to fix the imagination on some scene which suggests
tranquility - smooth seas, autumnal landscapes, snow-clad heights, old-world
gardens, deep, shady silent pools, childhood's lullabies, secluded
backwaters, dim aisles of ancient churches.

After a few evenings' practice, you will be able gradually to exclude all
other ideas, and focus on one, inducing a state which, somewhat similar
outwardly, is free from the excitement of religious exaltation, and from
the delusions of a medium's trance.

In this state, an appropriate suggestion must be made, sincerely, and with
_absolute faith_ in its power. Christ's miracles were the result of
suggestive therapeutics, and He took care to inspire relatives with faith,
to exclude scoffers, to surround himself by his believing Apostles, and,
after treatment, said: "See thou tell no man!" well knowing that suggestion
cannot withstand derision.

In this way, a patient of limited means can do for himself exactly what
more fortunate ones pay large fees to specialists to do for them. The
treatment is uncommon, but sound, for the medical profession is perhaps the
most conservative on earth, and when specialists of repute use a method,
you may be confident it is of value.

To cure sleeplessness, see that stomach and brain are at rest, bed
comfortable, and feet warm; calm yourself, and focus on the idea of sleep,

"I shall go to sleep in a few minutes, and wake at eight o'clock in the

Repeat this a few times, persist for a few nights and you will quickly get
drowsy, and fall asleep.

Phrases for other requirements will readily occur, as:

"I shall feel confident in open spaces!"

"I shall find no more pleasure in alcohol!" and so on.

Suggestion will not cure epilepsy, hysteria or neurasthenia, but it
overcomes many of the symptoms which make the patient so wretched.

"Crutches are hung on the walls of miraculous grottos, but _never a
wooden leg_."

Suggestion may move a paralysed arm, but the muscles only become healthy
again in many days by slow repair; suggestion releases the catch, but the
spring must be wound up by energy suitably applied.

* * * * *



"Of simples in these groves that grow
He'll learn the perfect skill;
The nature of each herb, to know
Which cures and which can kill."
- Dryden.

So distressing a malady as epilepsy early attracted attention, and every
treatment superstition could devise, or science could suggest, has been
tried. Culpepper in his "Herbal" (300 years old), recommends bryony; lunar
caustic (nitrate of silver) was extensively used, because silver was the
colour of the moon, which caused madness.

The royal touch for scrofula (King's Evil) was also extended to epilepsy,
the king blessing a ring, which was worn by the sufferer.

Another old remedy was to cut off a lock of the victim's hair while in a
seizure and put it in his hand, which stopped (?) the attack. In Berkshire
a piece of silver collected at the communion service and made into a ring
was specific, but in Devon a ring made of three nails from an old coffin
was preferred. Lupton says: "A piece of child's navel-string borne in a
ring is good against falling sickness."

Nearly every drug in the Pharmacopoeia has been tried, the drugs now
generally used being sodium, potassium and ammonium bromide.

Before bromides were introduced by Locock in 1857, very strict hygienic,
dietic and personal disciplinary treatment combined with the use of drugs
often effected improvement. Since the use of bromides, these personal
habits have, unfortunately, been neglected, far too much reliance being
placed on the "three times a day after meals" formula.

All bromides are quickly absorbed from the stomach and bowels, and enter
the blood as sodium bromide, which lowers the activity of both motor and
sensory centres, and renders the brain less sensitive to disturbing

Unfortunately, the influence of bromides is variable, uncertain, and
markedly good in only a small proportion of cases.

In about 25 per cent of cases, in which mild seizures occur at long
periods, without mental impairment, the bromides arrest the seizures,
either temporarily or permanently, after a short course. In another 25 per
cent the bromides lessen the frequency and severity of the fits, this being
the common _temporary_ result of their use in _all cases_ in the first

In quite 50 per cent of cases, the effect of bromides diminishes as they
are continued, and they finally exert no influence at all. Many cases are
temporarily "cured", the drug is stopped, and the seizures recur. Bromides
are valuable in recent and mild cases, but no medicine exerts much effect
on severe cases of long standing, which usually end in an institution.

When these drugs are taken continuously, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness,
confusion of thought and speech, lapses of memory, palpitation, furred
tongue, unsteady walk, acne and other symptoms of "bromism" may arise,
whereupon the patient must stop taking bromides and see a doctor, who will
substitute other drugs for a time.

If heart palpitation be troublesome while using bromides, take a
teaspoonful of sal volatile in water.

See a doctor if you can; _until_ you see him, get from a chemist:

Potassii bromidi 10 grains.
Sodii bromidi 10 grains.
Boracis purificati 5 grains.
Aquæ 1 fluid ounce.
Two tablespoonfuls in water three times a
day after meals.

This prescription is for an adult. If the patient be under twenty-one, tell
the chemist his age, and he will make it up proportionately.

Victims who have seizures with some regularity at a certain time, should
take the three doses in one, two hours before the attack is expected. If
there are long intervals between attacks, cease taking bromides after one
fit and recommence three weeks before the next seizure is apprehended. When
there is an interval of six months or more between attacks, take no drugs.

Bromides in solution are unpalatable, patients grow careless of regularity
and dosage.

You must learn from your doctor and your own experience the prescription,
time and dose best suited to your case, and then _never miss a dose until
you have been free from fits for two years_, for the beneficial action of
bromide depends on the tissues becoming and remaining "saturated" with the
drug. Never give up bromides suddenly after long use, but gradually reduce
the dose.

It is just when the disease has been brought under control, that patients
consider further doctor's bills an unnecessary expense, with the result
that a little later the fits recur, and a tedious treatment has to be
commenced over again.

No value can be placed on any specific for epilepsy until it has been
thoroughly tested for some years, and so proved that its effects are
permanent, for almost any treatment is of value for a time, possibly
through the agency of suggestion.

* * * * *



"Men who prescribe purifications and spells and other illiberal
practices of like kind." - Hippocrates.

By spell and medicines bought of mountebanks."
"Othello." Act I.

Carlyle said the world consisted of "so many million people, _mostly
fools_"; and he was right, for to public credulity alone is due the immense
growth of the patent-medicine trade.

It was formerly thought that for each disease, a specific drug could be
found, but this idea is exploded. The doctor determines the exact condition
of his patient, considers how he best may assist nature or prevent death,
and selects suitable drugs. He carefully notes their action and modifies
his treatment as required. The use of set prescriptions for set diseases is
obsolete; the doctor of to-day treats the patient, not the disease.

A few patent medicines are of limited value; many are made up from
prescriptions culled from medical works, and the rest are frauds, like
potato starch. The evil lies in charging from three to four hundred times a
just price, in ascribing to a medicine which may be good for a certain
disorder, a "cure-all" virtue it does not possess, and in inducing ignorant
people to take powerful drugs, reckless of results.

Ephemeral patent-medicine businesses, run by charlatans, whose aim is
frankly to make money before they are exposed, spring up like mushrooms;
and their cunningly worded advertisements meet the eye in the columns of
every paper one opens for a few months; then they drop out, to reappear
under another name, at another address. These rogues buy a few gross pills
from a wholesale druggist, insert a small advertisement, and so lay the
foundations of a profitable business.

The lure of the unknown is turned to account. "The discoverer went back to
the Heart of Nature - and found many rare herbs used by Native Tribes." "The
"Heart of Nature" was probably a single-room office tucked away down a
Fleet Street alley, and analysis proves these medicines contain only common
drugs, one "_Herbal Remedy_" being _metallic_ phosphates.

A common procedure is to send a question form, and, after answering the
query, "What are you suffering from?" with "Neurasthenia", the company
"carefully study" this, and then inform you with a gravity that would grace
the pages of "Punch", "You are the victim of a very intractable type of
Neurasthenia", so intractable in fact that it will need "additional
treatment" - at an "additional" fee.

The quack's advertisements are models of the skilful use of suggestion, and
turn to rare account the half-knowledge of physiology most men pick up from
periodicals. He frightens you with alarming and untrue statements, gains
your confidence by a display of semi-true facts reinforced where weak by
false assertions, and, having benefited himself far more than you, leaves
you to do what you should have done at first, go to a doctor or a hospital.

Were it made compulsory for the recipe to be printed on all patent
medicines, people would lose their childlike faith in coloured water and
purges, and cease the foolish and dangerous practice of treating diseases
of which they know little with drugs of which they know less.

The British Medical Association of 429, Strand, London, W.C., issue two
1_s_. books - "Secret Remedies: What they cost and what they contain", "More
Secret Remedies" - giving the ingredients and cost price of most patent
medicines. You are strongly urged to send for these books, which should be
in every home.

_The basis of every cure for epilepsy_ (not obviously fraudulent) _is
bromides_. The usual method is to condemn vigorously the use of potassium
bromide, and substitute ammonium or sodium bromide for it. Some advertisers
condemn all the bromides, and prescribe a mixture of them; others condemn
potassium bromide, and shamelessly forward a pure solution of this same
salt in water as a "positive cure!"

In all cases the sale price is out of reasonable proportion to the cost,
victims paying outrageous sums for very cheap drugs.

Most epileptics are poor, because their infirmity debars them from
continuous or well-paid work, leaving them dependent on relatives, often in
poor circumstances also. The picture of patients, already lacking many real
necessities, still further denying themselves for weeks or months to
purchase a worthless powder, is truly a pitiful one.

Bromides are unsatisfactory drugs in the treatment of epilepsy, but they
are the best we have at present. Get them made up to the prescription of a
doctor, and see him every month to report progress and be examined. In the
end, this plan will be very much cheaper, and incomparably better, than
buying crude bromides from quacks.

* * * * *

There is no drug treatment for either hysteria or neurasthenia, and when
the doctor gives medicines for these complaints, it is to remedy organic
troubles, or, more often because necessity forces him to pander to the
irrational and pernicious habit into which the public have fallen of
expecting a bottle of medicine whenever they visit a doctor. Osier, the
famous Professor of Medicine at Oxford, truly observed that he was the best
doctor who knew the uselessness of medicines. But when public opinion
demands a bottle, and is unwilling either to accept or pay for advice
alone, the doctor may be forced to give medicines which he feels are of
little value, hoping that their suggestive power will be greater than is
their therapeutic value.

Neuropaths invariably contract the habit of physicking themselves, and
taking patent foods and drugs which are valueless.

So universal is this pernicious habit that we deem it desirable to
criticize it here at some length.

One highly popular type consists of port wine, reinforced (?) by malt and
meat extracts, and sold under a fanciful name. It has about the same value
as a bottle of port, which costs considerably less. It is well to remember
that many a confirmed drunkard has commenced with these "restoratives".

Malt extracts are also popular. They contain diastase, and therefore aid
the digestion of starch, but the diastatic power of most commercial
extracts is negligible.

Meat extracts of various makes contain no nourishment, but are valuable
appetisers. Meat gravy is as effective and far cheaper.

Foods containing digestive ferments, which are widely advertised under
various proprietary names are practically valueless, as are the ferments
themselves sold commercially. Digestive disorders are very rarely due to
deficiency of ferments, while pepsin is the only one among all the ferments
that could act (and that only for a little while) in the digestive system.

Some of the disadvantages of predigested foods have been noted, and their
prices are usually so exorbitant that eggs at 2_s._ 6_d._ each would be
cheaper. The remarks of Sollmann the great pharmacologist are pertinent:

_Limitations_. The administration of food in the guise of medicine is
sometimes advantageous; but medicinal foods are subject to the ordinary
law of dietetics, and therefore cannot accomplish the wonders which are
often claimed for them. The proprietary foods have been enormously
overestimated, and have probably done more harm than good. The ultimate
value of any food depends mainly on the amount of calories which it can
yield, and on its supplying at least a minimum of proteins. In these
respects, the medical foods are all inferior, for they cannot be
administered practically in sufficient quantity to supply the needs of
the body. They have a place as adjuvants to other foods, permitting the
introduction of more food than the patient could otherwise be induced
to take. Aside from the special diabetes foods and cod-liver oil, their
value is largely psychic.

_Predigested Foods_. The value of these is doubtful, for digestive
disturbances involve the motor functions and absorption more commonly
than the chemical functions. Their continued use often produces

_Liquid Predigested Foods_. As sold, these are flavoured solutions
containing small amounts (½-6 per cent) of predigested proteins, ½-15
per cent of sugars and other carbohydrates, with 12-19 per cent of
alcohol, and often with large quantities (up to 30 per cent) of

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Online LibraryIsaac G. BriggsEpilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia → online text (page 6 of 10)