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Causes of Insanity

Category: Diseases of The Nervous System

There are many and various causes. One author states:
"Mental abnormality is always due to either imperfect or eccentric
physical development, or to the effects of inborn or acquired physical
disease, or to injurious impressions, either ante-natal or post natal,
upon the delicate and intricate physical structure known as the human
brain." Some physical imperfections, more than others, give rise to mental
derangements, and some persons, more than others, when affected by any
bodily ailment, tend to aberrated conditions of the mind. Some impressions
more than others, are peculiarly unfortunate by reason of their crowding
effects upon the brain tablets of a sensitive mind. To these natural
defects and unnatural tendencies, we apply, in the general way, the term
"Insane Diathesis." This diathesis may be inherited or acquired. Those who
are born to become insane do not necessarily spring from insane parents or
from an ancestry having any apparent taint of lunacy in the blood. But
they do receive from their progenitors oftentimes certain impressions upon
their mental and moral, as well as upon their physical being, which
impressions, like iron molds, fix and shape their subsequent destinies."

The insane diathesis in the child may come from hysteria in the mother. A
drunken father may impel epilepsy, madness or idiocy in the child.
Ungoverned passions, from love to hate, from hope to fear, when indulged
in overmuch by the parents, may unloose the furies of unrestrained madness
in the minds of the children. "The insane may often trace their sad
humiliation and utter unfitness for life's duties back through a tedious
line of unrestrained passion, of prejudice, bigotry, and superstition
unbridled, of lust unchecked, of intemperance uncontrolled, of avarice
unmastered, and of nerve resources wasted, exhausted, and made bankrupt
before its time. Timely warnings by the physician and appeals to his
clients of today, may save them for his own treatment, instead of
consigning them to an asylum where his fees cease from doubling, and the
crazed ones are at rest." The causes of the insane diathesis
(constitution) are frequently traceable to the methods of life of those
who produce children under such circumstances and conditions that the
offspring bear the indelible birthmark of mental weakness. Early
dissipations of the father produce an exhausted and enfeebled body; and a
demoralized mind and an unholy and unhealthy existence in the mother, are
causes. Fast living of parents in society is a fruitful cause of mental
imperfections in their children. "The sons of royalty and the sons of the
rich, are often weak in brain force because of the high living of their

The fast high livers of today are developing rapidly and surely, strong
tendencies to both mental and physical disorders. Elbert Hubbard says of
those who live at a certain hotel and waste their substance there, that
they are apt "to have gout at one end, general paresis at the other, and
Bright's disease in the middle."

Drunkenness, lust, rage, fear, mental anxiety or incompatibility, "if
admitted to participation in the act of impregnation will each, in turn or
in combination, often set the seal of their presence in the shape of
idiocy, imbecility, eccentricity, or absolute insanity."

Diogenes reproached a half-witted, cracked-brained unfortunate with this
remark, "Surely, young man, thy father begat thee when he was drunk."

Burton in his anatomy of melancholy states that: "If a drunken man begets
a child it will never likely have a good brain," Michelet predicts: "Woe
unto the children of darkness, the sons of drunkenness who were, nine
months before their birth, an outrage on their mothers."

Children of drunkards are often "sad and hideous burlesques upon normal
humanity." Business worry may cause unsoundness in the offspring generated
under such conditions.

One father had two sons grow up strong and vigorous, mentally and
physically, while a third son was weak, irresolute, fretful, suspicious
and half demented. The father confessed to his physician that on account
of business troubles he was half crazy and during this time the wife
became pregnant and this half-crazy son was born and the father states
that "he inherits just the state of mind I was then in." Many such cases
could be mentioned. "A sound body and a cheerful mind can only be produced
from healthy stock." Mental peculiarities are produced by unpleasant
influences brought to bear upon the pregnant mother. The story is told of
King James the Sixth of Scotland, that he was constitutionally timid and
showed great terror at a drawn sword. His father was murdered in his
mother's presence while she was pregnant. Children born under the
influence of fear may be troubled with apprehensions of impending
calamity, so intense that they may become insane at last. An instance is
given of "an insane man who always manifested the greatest fear of being
killed and constantly implored those around him not to hurt him." His
mother lived with her drunken husband who often threatened to kill her
with a knife.

Next: Other Causes of Insanity

Previous: INSANITY. History

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