Isaac G Briggs.

Epilepsy, hysteria, and neurasthenia, their causes, symptoms & treatment; online

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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 condi-
tion 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 tempera-


For anaemic patients, the following is a useful
prescription :


Quininae valerianatis - gr. xx

Ferri valerianatis - gr. xx

Ammon. valerianatis - gr. xx

Misce et fiant pilulae no.- xx

Sig. : One or two three times a day, after

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."

HE above quotation epitomizes the cure for
neurasthenia, for as Huxley said :

" 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.

4 6


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 excite-
ment, 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

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 gym-
nastic 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 occu-
pation 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

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 preoccupa-
tion 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

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 recuperate.

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 over-
whelm him. The results of this regime 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 concen-
tration. 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

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

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

After some months of treatment, ask yourself
Am I able to walk ten miles with ease ? when intro-
duced 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



" 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

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 symp-
toms 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 :

i oz. Bicarbonate of Soda,

i oz. Common Salt,

i oz. Borax,

Dissolved in i 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 sub-
stances 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 weari-
some 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

Buy 3 ozs. Precipitated Chalk,
i 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 inter-
stices 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.

i| fl. oz. Glycerine,
i fl. oz. Carbolic Acid,
| 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 brush.

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 li ve without books,
But civilized man cannot live without cooks."

THE human digestive system consists of a
long tube, in which food is received, nutri-
ment taken from it as it passes slowly down-
wards, 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 Lieberkiihn'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 meal.

The remaining food is absorbed by the blood capil-
laries in the villi, and passes to the liver for nitration
and storage.


The large bowel has Lieberkiihn'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 re-
converted 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."


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 !

Then eat the meal slowly and thoroughly. Con-
versation may lighten and lengthen a meal, but
avoid politics, " shop " and topics of that type.
What is wanted at table is wit, not wisdom.

Water may be drunk with meals, provided it is
drunk between eating, and not while masticating, for
it has decidedly beneficial effects upon the digestive
functions. Water is usually forbidden with meals
because if patients drink while eating, the water usurps
the functions of saliva, and moistens the bolus, which
is then swallowed with little or no mastication. If
you cannot drink between mouthfuls, then drink only
between meals. Never drink while food is in the
mouth !

After the meal, lie down on the right side for half
an hour, resting, and so directing all available nerve-
energy to getting digestion well under way.

Indifferent appetites must be tempted by whole-
some dishes made up in a variety of enticing ways.
Fats are good, but must be taken in a tasty form.
Eat fruit deluged with cream.

The crux of digestion is to

" Chew \ CHEW ! ! and KEEP ON CHEWING ! ! !"

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Online LibraryIsaac G BriggsEpilepsy, hysteria, and neurasthenia, their causes, symptoms & treatment; → online text (page 4 of 11)