Isaac G Briggs.

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

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ness, diplomacy and wisdom would carry their point.

They are ready to forgive when there is magnanimity,
vainglory and probably folly in forgiveness, but will
not overlook the most trivial affront when there is
every reason for so doing. They have brain, but not
ballast, and their whole life is usually a lopsided effort
to " play to the gallery ".

In poetry and literature, fancy has free play, and
they often succeed, sometimes rising to sublime
heights ; usually in the depiction of the whimsical, the
wonderful, the sardonic, the bizarre, the monstrous,
or the frankly impossible. They are not architects as
much as jugglers of words, and descriptive writing
from an acute angle of vision is their forte. They
sometimes succeed as artists or composers, for in these
spheres they need not elaborate their ideas in such
clean-cut detail, but many who might succeed in these
branches have not sufficient strength of purpose to do
the preliminary " spade work ".

They have too many talents, too many differing
inclinations, too much impetuosity, too much vanity,
too little concentration and will-power, and they fail
in ordinary walks of life from the lack of resolution to
lay the foundations necessary to successful mediocrity.

No greater obstacle to progress exists than the repu-
tation for talent which this class acquire on a flimsy
basis of superficial brilliance in conversation or a
penchant for witty repartee. They are self-opinion-
ated and egoistical, with a conceit and assurance out
of all proportion to their abilities. Their mental
perspective is distorted and they are conspicuous for
their obstinacy. In conversation they are prolix and


pretentious, and they often contract religious mania,
in which their actions by no means accord with their
protestations, for they have very elementary notions
of right and wrong, or no notions at all.

Often they are precocious, but untruthful, cruel,
and vicious ; the despair of relatives, friends, and
teachers. They combine unusual frankness with an
audacity and impulsiveness that is very misleading,
for below this show of fire and power there is no

Their character is a tangle of mercurial moods, the
neuropath being passionate but loving, sullen one
moment, overflowing with sentimental affection the
next, vicious a little while later, quick to unreasoning
anger, and as quick to repent or forgive, obstinate but
easily led, versatile but inconstant, noble and mean
by turns, full of contradictions and contrasts, at best
a brilliant failure, vain, deaf to advice or reproof,
having in his ailing frame the virtues and vices of a
dozen normal men.

Mercier aptly describes him :

" There is a large class of persons who are often
of acute and nimble intelligence, in general ability
equal to or above the average, of an active,
bustling disposition, but who are utterly devoid
of industry. For by industry we mean steady
persistence in a continuous employment in spite
of monotony and distastefulness ; an employ-
ment that is followed at the cost of present
gratification for the sake of future benefit. Of
such self-sacrifice these persons are incapable.
They are always busy, but their activity is
recreative, in the sense that it is congenial to them,
and from it they derive immediate gratification.
As soon as they tire of what they are doing, as
soon as their occupation ceases to be in itself
attractive it is relinquished for something else,


which in its turn is abandoned as soon as it
becomes tedious.

" Such people form a well-characterized class :
they are clever ; they readily acquire accomplish-
ments which do not need great application ; and
agreeably to the recreative character of their
occupations, their natures are well developed
on the artistic side. They draw, paint, sing, play,
write verses and make various pretty things with
easy dexterity. Their lack of industry prevents
them ever mastering the technique of any art ;
they have artistic tastes, but are always amateurs.

" With the vice of busy idleness they display
other vices. The same inability to forgo
immediate enjoyment, at whatever cost, shows
itself in other acts. They are nearly always
spendthrifts, usually drunkards, often sexually
dissolute. Next to their lack of industry, their
most conspicuous quality is their incurable
mendacity. Their readiness, their resources, their
promptitude, the elaborate circumstantiality of
their lies are astonishing. The copiousness and
efficiency of their excuses for failing to do what
they have undertaken would convince anyone who
had no experience of their capabilities in this way.

" Withal, they are excellent company, pleasant
companions, good-natured, easy-going, and
urbane. Their self-conceit is inordinate, and
remains undiminished in spite of repeated failures
in the most important affairs of life. They see
themselves fall immeasurably behind those who
are admittedly their inferiors in cleverness, yet
they are not only cheery and content, but their
confidence in their own powers and general
superiority to other people remains undiminished.
The lack of self-restraint is plainly an inborn
character, for it may show itself in but one member
of the family brought up in exactly the same
circumstances as other members who do not show
any such peculiarity. The victim is born with


one important mental faculty defective, precisely
as another may be born with hare-lip."

In neuropaths the mental mechanism of projection,
which we all show, is often marked.

Any personal shortcoming, being repugnant to us
causes self-reproach, which we avoid by " projecting "
the fault (unconsciously) on some one else.

Readers should get " The Idiot " by Fedor Dostoieff-
sky, an epileptic genius who saw that for those like him,
happiness could be got through peace of mind alone,
and not in the cut-throat struggle for worldly success.
He projected his stabler self into Prince Muishkin, the
idiot, and every one of the six hundred odd pages of
this amazing description of a neuropathic nation is
stamped with the hall-mark of genius.



" Between two beings so complex and so diverse as man and
woman, the whole of life is not too long for them to know one
another well, and to learn to love one another worthily."


NO neuropath should have children, but
marriage is good in mild cases, for neuropaths
are benefited by sympathetic companionship,
and their sexual passions are so strong that they
must be gratified, by marriage, prostitution, or

Bernard Shaw's sneer

" Marriage is popular because it combines
the maximum of temptation with the maximum
of opportunity "

is justifiable, though the " maximum of opportunity "
is better than a maximum of unnatural devices to
satisfy and intensify normal and abnormal cravings.

There is a popular belief that an epileptic girl
is cured by pregnancy, a state that ought never to

The lack of sex-education causes millions of miserable
marriages. Sexual desire is cultivated out of all
proportion to other desires, the will cannot control the
desire to relieve an intolerable sense of discomfort,
and men eagerly seize the first chance of being able to
satisfy these fierce cravings at pleasure.

If sex were treated sensibly it would develop into a


powerful instead of an overpowering appetite, and
reason would have some say in the choice of a life-

A neuropath needs a calm, even-tempered,
" motherly " wife. For him, gentleness, self-control,
sound common sense and domestic virtues are superior
to wit or beauty. Unfortunately, contrary to public
belief, people are attracted by their like, not by their
opposites. The sensitive, refined neuropath finds the
normal person insipid and dull ; the normal person is
rendered uncomfortable by the morbid caprices of
the neuropath.

There must be no disparity of age, for at the meno-
pause the woman no longer seeks the sexual embrace,
and if her husband be young unfaithfulness ensues.
Not only that, but she, knowing, probably to her
sorrow, how rarely the hopes of youth mature, cannot
take a keen interest in his ambitions like a younger
woman, or fire his dying enthusiasm at difficult parts
of the way. If he be his wife's senior he will be as
little able to appreciate her ideas and habits.

An excitable, volatile, garrulous, " neighbourly "
woman, or one who can do little save strum on the
piano or make embroidery as intricate as it is useless,
means divorce or murder. For him, sweetness, gentle-
ness, self-control, sound common sense, shrewdness,
and domestic virtues are incomparably superior to
any mental brilliance or physical comeliness. He
needs a " homely " woman, and should remember
that no banking account can match a sweet, womanly
personality, and no charms compare to a sunny heart,
and an ability steadfastly to " see the silver lining ".

He must on no account marry a woman in
indifferent health, for under the strain of her husband's
infirmity the woman, who if she were well would be a
help, is a source of expense, worry and friction.

On the other hand the woman who receives a pro-


posal from a neuropath, be he ever so gifted, has
grave grounds for pausing, though it is hard to counter
the specious arguments of one who may be " a man o'
pairts ", a witty companion and an ardent lover. It
is doubtful if a neuropath is ever permeated by a stead-
fast emotion, for all his emotions are fierce but unstable,
the love of an inconsistent man being ten times more
ardent than that of a faithful one, while it lasts.

" You can't marry a man without taking his
faults with his virtues,"

and love must be strong enough to stand, not storms
alone, but the minor miseries of life, the incessant
pinpricks, the dreary days when the smile abroad has
become the scowl at home. At best, her husband
will be capricious, hard to please, and though rabidly
jealous without cause, at the same time very partial
to the attractions of other women. He usually needs
the attention of the whole household, which his varying
health and moods keep in a mingled state of anxious
solicitude and smouldering resentment.

His infirmity may mean a very secluded and hum-
drum life. She will have to make home an ever-cheery
place, an ideal that means hard work and self-sacrifice
through lonesome years in which her nobility will
be unrecognized and unrewarded.

A woman fond of amusements and sport, and having
many acquaintances would find this unbearable.
Any happiness in marriage to a neuropath is largely
dependent on the self-sacrifice of the wife.

Should marriage occur, the wife must judiciously
curb her husband's passions without driving him to
other women by coldness, a problem which is often
solved by separation. The suggestion should never
come from her, and the more she can curb his ardour
by tactful suggestion, the healthier will he and the


happier will she be, for nothing causes such an irri-
table, nervous state as excessive coitus.

She will often have to give way in this matter, but
must be firm on the necessity for preventing concep-
tion, for she can only bear a tainted child ; her respon-
sibility is great, and she must insist that her husband
use those simple methods which prevent conception,
thereby ending in himself one branch of a worthless
tree. This must be done at any cost, for her happiness
is nought compared to the welfare of future generations.
Bitter though it be that no fruit of her womb may call
her blessed, it is less bitter than hearing her children
call themselves accursed.

" So many severall wayes are we plagued and
punished for our father's defaultes, that it is the
greatest part of our felicity to be well born, and
it were happy for humankind if only such parentes
as are sounde of body and mind should be suffered
to marry. An Husbandman will sow none but
the choicest seed upon his lande ; he will not
reare a bull nor an horse, except he be right
shapen in all his parts, or permit him to cover a
mare, except he be well assured of his breed ; we
make choice of the neatest kine, and keep the best
dogs, and how careful then should we be in
begetting our children ? In former tyme, some
countreys have been so chary in this behalf, so
stern, that if a child were crooked or deformed in
body or mind, they made it away ; so did the
Indians of old, and many other well gouverned
Commonwealths, according to the discipline of
those times. Heretofore in Scotland, if any were
visited with the falling sickness, madness, goute,
leprosie, or any such dangerous disease, which
was like to be propagated from the father to the
son, he was instantly gelded ; a woman kept from
all company of men ; and if by chance, having
some such disease, she was found to be with child,


she with her brood were buried alive ; and this
was done for the common good, lest the whole
nation should be injured or corrupted. A severe
doom, you will say, and not to be used among
Christians. Yet to be more looked into than it
is. For now, by our too much facility in this
kind, in giving way to all to marry that will, too
much liberty and indulgence in tolerating all
sorts, there is a vast confusion of hereditary
diseases ; no family secure, no man almost free
from some grievous infirmity or other. Our
generation is corrupt, we have so many weak
persons, both in body and mind, many feral
diseases raging among us, crazed families : our
fathers bad, and we like to be worse."

Her husband will want much petting and caressing,
and she must foster his love by lavishing on him much
fondness, and ignoring amours as but the mischievous
results of his restless, intriguing mind.

She must let him see in an affectionate way that she
can let others enjoy his company betimes, secure in
the knowledge that she is supreme in his affections
cajolery that flatters his overweening vanity, and rarely

In anger, as in every other emotion, the neuropath is
as transient as he is truculent. A trivial " tiff " will
make him blaze up in ungovernable rage and say
most abominable and untruthful things ; even utter
violent threats. He will not admit he is wrong, but
like a spoilt child must be kissed and coaxed into a
good temper, first with himself and with others next.

At one moment he is in a perfect paroxysm of fury ;
five minutes later he is passionately embracing the
luckless object of it and vowing eternal devotion.
In a further five he has forgotten all his remarks and
would hotly deny he used the vexing statements
imputed to him.


Epileptics are morbidly sensitive, and reference to
their malady must be avoided. Victims are intensely
suspicious, and a pitying look will reveal to them the
fact that some outsider knows all about the jealously-
guarded skeleton. Resentment, distrust and misery
follow such an exposure, for every innocent look is
then translated into a contemptuous glance, and the
victim detects slights undreamt of in any brain save
his own.

Unless seizures are severe, no one should be called
in ; if they cause alarm, ask a discreet male neighbour
to assist when necessary, leaving when the convulsions
abate so that the victim is not aware of his presence.
Avoid the word " fit " and " epilepsy ", and if refer-
ence to the attack be necessary, refer to it as a " faint "
or " turn ".

Living with a man liable to have a fit at inoppor-
tune times is a tremendous strain, and the soundest
advice one can offer a woman thinking of marrying
such a one is Punch's " DON'T ! "

We have painted the black side, but, tactfully
managed, a neuropath will merge in the kindest of
husbands, the most constant of lovers. The wife need
not be unhappy. Tactless, masterful women will fail,
but no one is more easily led, particularly in the way
he should not go, than a neuropath.

A man with definite views of his own value will not
be successful foil for " mother-in-lawing ", nor remain
quiet under the interference of relatives, who should
remember that well-meaning intentions do not justify
meddling actions.

Many a neuropath led a useful life and gained success
in a profession, solely because his wife tactfully kept
him in the path, watched his health, prevented him
frittering away his gifts in many pursuits or useless
repining, and made home a real haven. -

When the yolk seems unbearably heavy, the wife


should remember her husband has to bear the primary,
she only the reflected misery, for the limitations neuro-
pathy puts on every activity and ambition, social
and professional, are frightfully depressing.

In spite of his peevishness her husband may be trying
hard to minimize his defects and be a reasonable, help-
ful companion.

' Judge not the working of his brain,
And of his heart thou can'st not see ;
What looks to thy dim eyes a stain
In God's pure light may only be
A scar brought from some well-fought field,
Where thou would'st only faint and yield."

Magnify his virtues and be tenderly charitable to
his many frailties, for he is " not as other men " and
too well he knows it. Love at its best is so complex
that it easily goes awry, but death will one day dissolve
all its complexity, and when, maybe after " many a
weary mile "

" The voice of him I loved is still,
The restless brain is quiet,
The troubled heart has ceased to beat
And the tainted blood to riot "

it will comfort you to reflect that you did your duty
and, to best the of your ability, fulfilled your solemn
pledge to love and honour him.
To quote George Eliot :

" What greater reward can thou desire than the
proud consciousness that you have strengthened
him in all labour, comforted him in all sorrow,
ministered to him in all pain, and been with him
in silent but unspeakably holy memories at the
moment of eternal parting ? "


Surely, none!

We have considered the mournful case of a wife
with a neuropathic husband, and must now say a few
words about the truly distressing fate of a husband
afflicted with a neuropathic wife, for neuropathy in
its unpleasant consequences to others is far worse in
woman than in man.

A man is at work all day, and his mind is perforce
distracted from his woes, and, though he retails them
at night to the home circle, they get so used to them as
to disregard them, proffering a few words of agreement,
sympathy or scorn quite automatically.

With women the distraction of work is not so com-
plete, for housework can be neglected, there are always
neighbours and friends to listen to tales of woe and
thus generate a very harmful self-pity, and women are
not content to enumerate their woes, but demand the
attention and sympathy of all listeners.

Many of the facts in the foregoing parts of this
chapter apply with equal force to both sexes, but
women being usually more patient, tactful, resigned
and self-sacrificing than men, can and often do-
alleviate the lot of the male neuropath ; whereas the
absence of these qualities in the average man means
that he aggravates, instead of alleviating, the lot
of any female neuropath to whom he may be wedded.

Having taken her " for better, for worse " he will
find her irritating, unreasonable, and unfitted to
shoulder domestic responsibilities. Her likes and dis-
likes, fickle fancies, unreasonable prejudices, selfish
ways will cause trouble ; he must be prepared
for misunderstandings and feuds with relatives and
friends, and on reaching home tired and worried, he is
like to find his house in disorder, be assailed by a tale
of woe, and perhaps find that his wife's vagaries have
involved him in a tiff with neighbours.

She will be fretful, exacting, impatient, and given


to ready tears. Sensitive to the last degree, she will
see slights where none are intended, and a chiding
word, a reproachful look, or a weary sigh will mean a
fit of temper or depression.

Not only are men less gifted for " managing " women
than vice versa, but women are far less susceptible to
tactful management than men ; a man, like a dog, can
be led almost anywhere with a little dragging at the
chain and growling now and then ; a woman, like a
cat, is more likely to spit, swear, and scratch than come

Consequently, it is almost impossible to suggest
means of obtaining relief to one who has been luckless
enough to marry, or be married by, a neuropathic

If the husband sympathize, the condition will but
be aggravated ; medicinal measures will only increase,
instead of diminishing, the number of symptoms ;
indifference will procure such an exhibition as will
both prove its uselessness and ensure the attention



TO sum up : we have learnt that Epilepsy is a
very ancient disease due to some instability
of the brain, in which convulsions are a
common but not invariable symptom.

Its actual cause is unknown. Heredity plays a
big part, but there are secondary causes beside factors
which excite attacks.

Various methods and drugs to prevent seizures
have a limited use.

First-aid treatment consists solely in preventing
the victim sustaining any injury.

Neurasthenia is a disease due to nerve-exhaustion
and poisoning from overwork and worry. Its symp-
toms are many, but fatigue and irritability are the

Hysteria is an obstinate, functional, nervous disease
in which the patient acts in an abnormal manner, which
is highly provoking to other individuals.

The cure for hysteria and neurasthenia is solely
hygienic, and depends mainly on the patient.

The first step towards health consists in getting
any slight organic defects remedied.

Digestion is often poorly performed.

This must be remedied by thorough mastication and
rational dieting.

Constipation is very inimical to neuropaths, and must
be remedied.

Patients must pay careful attention to general



Insomnia is exhausting and must be conquered.

The effects of imagination are profound.

Suggestion treatment overcomes imaginary ills.

Drug treatment is either of very limited utility, or
frankly useless.

Patent medicines are never of the slightest use.

The rational training of neuropathic children is a
very difficult but essential task.

Puberty and adolescence are very critical times.

Occupations and recreations must be wisely chosen.

Heredity is the primary cause of these diseases.
As it cannot be treated, sufferers must not have

Character is abnormal in nervous disease.

Marriage is very undesirable.

As a parting injunction, whether you are an epileptic
or a neurasthenic, or a friend, relative, or attendant of
such a one :



" Oh 1 for a booke and a shadie nooke,
Eyther indoore or oute ;
Where I male reade, all atte my ease

Both of the newe and olde :
For a jollie goode booke, whereonne to looke

Is better to me than golde ! "

The following books are suitable for laymen, and
are most of them very readable.


We know of no book suitable for laymen,


" Nervous Disorders of Men " (Kegan Paul) Hollander.
" Nervous Disorders of Women " (Kegan

Paul) - - - Hollander.

" National Degeneration " (Cornish,

Birmingham) - - - D. F. Harris.

" Hysteria and Neurasthenia " - J. M. Clarke.

" The Management of a Nerve Patient - Schofield.
" Confessions of a Neurasthenic" (F. A.

Davis Co., Philadelphia)

Conquest of Nerves " (Macmillan)-



Indigestion "


Dietetics " (Jack's People's Books)
Diet in Dyspepsia "
Cookery for Common Ailments " -

- Marrs.

- Courtney.

- Herschell.

A. Bryce.






" Constipation "


" Laws of Life and Health "
" Health " ...


" Sleep and Sleeplessness " -
" The Meaning of Dreams "


" Psychology in Daily Life "
" Hygiene of the Mind "

- Bigg.

- A. Bryce.

- M. M. Burgess.

- H. A. Bruce.

- I. H. Coriat.

- Seashore.

- T. S. Clouston.


" Hypnotism and Suggestion " - Hollander.

" How to Treat by Suggestion " - Ash.

" Hypnotism and Self-Education " (Jack's

People's Books) ... Hutchmson.


" Patent Foods and Patent Medicines "

(Bale & Davidson) - Hutchinson.

See Chapter XX for B.M.A. Books.

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Online LibraryIsaac G BriggsEpilepsy, hysteria, and neurasthenia, their causes, symptoms & treatment; → online text (page 9 of 11)