site logo

Causes of Insanity

Categories: 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 som
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.