Isaac G Briggs.

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

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affects his body that he is actually unwell physically,
though the cause of his trouble is purely mental.

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 ngecls 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 explana-
tion 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 sugges-
tion, the patient is benefited by such medicines.

Thinking of pain makes it worse and vice versa.

The curative effects of auto-suggestion were demon-
strated 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 . . .


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 imagi-
nation 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 under-
stand. 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."


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 treat-
ment, the quacks exploited it up hill and down dale.

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 suggestions.

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 dis-
pelled. Faults of character, reasoning and living are
unsparingly exposed and appropriate remedies
suggested, and he is shown how unmanly his self-tor-
turing 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 resolu-
tions 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 suit-
able 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 thera-
peutics, 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 with-
stand 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 confi-
dent 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, saying :

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

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

Suggestion will not cure epilepsy, hysteria or neuras-
thenia, 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."


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

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, ver Y strict hygienic, dietic and personal discip-
linary 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 dis-
turbing influences.

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 stages.

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

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.

Aquae i 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."


"... Corrupted
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

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 induc-



ing 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 adver-
tisement, and so lay the foundations of a profitable

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 treat-
ing 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 is. 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 propor-
tion 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 nourish-
ment, 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 them-
selves 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

Some of the disadvantages of predigested foods have
been noted, and their prices are usually so exorbitant
that eggs at 2s. 6d. 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 irritation.

Liquid Predigested Foods. As sold, these are


flavoured solutions containing small amounts
(^-6 per cent) of predigested proteins, -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 glycerin. Their
protein content averages less than that of milk,
and in energy value they are vastly inferior.
Their daily dose yields but 55-300 calories
including their alcohol ; this is only one-thirtieth
to one-fifth the minimum requirements of resting
patients. To increase their dose to that required
to maintain nutrition would mean the ingestion
of an amount of alcohol equivalent to a pint of
whisky per day.

Of recent years very expensive preparations of real
or alleged organic iron compounds have had a large
sale. Iron is a component of haemoglobin, a solid
constituent (13 per cent by weight) of the blood, which
combines with the oxygen in the lungs, and is carried
(as oxyhaemoglobin) all over the body, giving the
oxygen up to the tissues. Haemoglobin is an
exceedingly complex substance, but it contains only
one-third per cent by weight of iron in organic form.

The liver is the storehouse of iron, its reserve being
depleted when there is an extraordinary demand for
iron. The minute amounts of iron in ordinary food
are amply sufficient for all our needs ; any excess is
simply stored, and, later excreted, and has no effect
whatever on the circulating haemoglobin.

Iron is only of value in certain forms of anaemia,

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Online LibraryIsaac G BriggsEpilepsy, hysteria, and neurasthenia, their causes, symptoms & treatment; → online text (page 6 of 11)