In what could be considered a very bad idea, Robert Louis Stevenson trekked through Cevennes, France, among mountains and lower highlands, despite his youthful bad health, aboard a donkey named Modestine. It was the autumn of 1878 and he was many years, half a decade in fact, from the fame of his greatest literary success: Treasure Island. What did lend itself to a towering reputation was his embarking on the traditional grand tour of Victorian gentlemen, which explained his presence on top of a mountain range in the South of France, and it was no mean feat when he breached one of the highest ranges to make camp at a small clearing. After dining on chocolate, brandy, other delicacies that befit his social status, the budding writer made to kip in the sleep cap he carried with him under the day’s dying sun. But instead of embarking onto unforeseen travels in his dreams, his sleep was interrupted shortly after midnight.
Asylums. Electro-Shock Therapy. Skull Drills. Pills. Exorcisms. Isolation. Lobotomies. Many of the drastic procedures that have been put in place to relieve a person of mental illness are only successful in creating ‘vegetables’ out of patients, not curing their illness but making them ghosts of their previous selves.
Throughout history, there have been radical changes in how the mentally ill are treated and cared for; most of these occurred because of changing societal views and knowledge of mental illness. These changes have brought psychiatrics out of a negative light and have given psychiatric studies a brighter, more positive outlook.
The history of treating mental illnesses dates as far back as 5000 B.C.E. with the evidence of “trephined skulls.”
In the ancient world cultures, a well-known belief was that mental illness was “the result of supernatural phenomena”; this included phenomena from “demonic possession” to “sorcery” and “the evil eye”. The most commonly believed cause, demonic possession, was treated by chipping a hole, or “trephine”, into the skull of the patient by which “the evil spirits would be released,” therefore healing the patient.
Although ancient Persians also believed that the illnesses were caused by demons, they practiced precautionary measures such as personal hygiene and “purity of the mind and body” in order to “prevent and protect one from diseases”.
Similarly, the Egyptians recommended that those stricken with mental illness should participate in “recreational activities” in order to relieve symptoms which displayed that, as a civilization, the Egyptians were very advanced in their treatment of mental handicaps. (Foerschner)
During the 5th and 3rd centuries B.C.E., the Greeks changed the way that psychological disorders were viewed. The philosopher and physician, Hippocrates, discovered that illnesses come from “natural occurrences in the body” (Foerschner).
As Hippocrates was studying mental illness, he stepped away from the superstitious beliefs and towards the medical aspect of it. He studied the pathology of the brain and suggested that mental illness stemmed from imbalances in the body.
These imbalances were in the “four essential fluids”; blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile which produce “unique personalities of individuals.” In order to restore the body’s balance, the Greeks used techniques such as phlebotomies, bloodletting, purging, and imposing diets on the afflicted (Foerschner).One treatment that Hippocrates advocated was changing the occupation and/or environment of the patient.
Although these treatments had gained popularity amongst most cultures, there were still vast majorities of people who believed in the supernatural causes of mental illness and used treatments such as amulets, talismans, and sedatives to “ease the torment” of the afflicted (Foerschner).
Historically, those with mental illnesses had a “social stigma” attached to them. It was believed that “a mentally ill member implies a hereditary, disabling condition in the bloodline” threatening the family’s “identity as an honorable unit”.
In countries, or cultures, that had strong ties to family honor, such as China, the ill were hidden by their families so that the community or society that they were a part of wouldn’t believe the illness was “a result of immoral behavior by the individual and/or their relatives”.
As a result of this social stigma, many of the mentally ill were forced to either “live a life of confinement” or were abandoned and forced to live on the streets. Any of those that were abandoned to live on the streets and were rumored “dangerous and unmanageable” were either put in jail or dungeons, out of the public eye (Foerschner, 1).
According to Dr. Eve Leeman of the New York- Presbyterian Hospital, the social views on the sexes also affected the treatment of patients, particularly women. In the early 20th century, women were “preferentially sterilized and lobotomized” and were sometimes even subjected to unnecessary procedures such as the five women in the Stockton State Hospital who were given a clitoridectomy. The justification for these procedures was that having a mental illness was “unladylike” and required “surgical intervention” (Leeman).
These negative perspectives of the mentally ill were maintained throughout history and into modern societies as shown by Nurse Ratched’s treatment of the patients in One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Kesey). Throughout the novel, Nurse Ratched abuses her position and uses her power to submit her patients to cruel treatment as punishment for misbehavior.
This is due to the fact that she doesn’t see her patients as human beings but as animals who need to be trained.
In the early 15th century many of those afflicted with psychological disorders were placed in workhouses, madhouses, or asylums because it was too burdensome for the families to care for them. The state of these institutions was abhorable.
Those that were admitted to madhouses were abused and often abandoned by their caregivers who were not trained in the treatment of mental disorders. Private madhouses, however, were often run by clergy men and were significantly more humane.
The treatments instituted by the clergymen included regular church attendance, pilgrimages, as well as priests solacing individuals to confess their sins and repent. Asylums, on the other hand, were incredibly inhumane in the treatment of their patients.
Many of those admitted were abused, abandoned, treated like animals, restrained with shackles and iron collars, cared for by untrained staff, and even put on display. An infamous example of the horrors of early asylums would be La Bicetre.
In this French asylum, patients were shackled to walls with very little room to move, were not adequately fed, only visited when brought food, their rooms were not cleaned, and they were therefore forced to sit in their own wastes. Another example would be Saint Mary of Bethlehem, an asylum nicknamed “Bedlam” due to its horrific treatment of the mentally ill.
Their “violent” patients were on display like “sideshow freaks” and their “gentler” patients were forced to beg on the streets. Patients who were allowed to be visited by family often begged their families to be released, however, since the current stigma of mental handicaps was so negative, their pleas would be ignored.
Treatments in these asylums, as well as others, included purging, bloodletting, blistering, dousing patients in either boiling or ice-cold water to “shock” them, sedatives, and using physical restraints such as straitjackets (Foerschner).
Due to the obviously horrific treatment of patients in asylums, many reforms began to take place starting in the mid-to-late 1800s.
Two reformists greatly influenced the spread of what is known as the “Humanitarian Movement,” the first being Phillipe Pinel, in Paris. Pinel believed that “mentally ill patients would improve if they were treated with kindness and consideration” instead of filthy, noisy, and abusive environments; he implemented his hypothesis when he took over La Bicetre.
Another major reformist, William Tuke, founded the York Retreat where patients were treated with “respect and compassion” (Foerschner). After Tuke and Pinel, came Dorothea Dix who advocated the hospital movement and in 40 years, got the U.S. government to fund the building of 32 state psychiatric hospitals as well as organizing reforms in asylums across the world (Module 2).
The Hospital movement started in the 18th century and was justified by reasons such as: “to protect society and the insane from harm, to cure those amenable to treatment, to improve the lives of the incurable, and to fulfill the humanitarian duty of caring for the insane” (Dain).
Along with the creation of state psychiatric hospitals, various organizations and acts, such as Mental Health America (MHA) and the U.S. Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963, were created to “improve the lives of the mentally ill in the United States” (Module 2). With the reforms came the increase in psychoanalysis.
Sigmund Freud, who is referred to as the father of psychology, was, basically, the creator of psychoanalysis. Freud wrote the Psychoanalytic Theory in which he explains “the id, the ego, and the superego” as well as therapeutic techniques such as hypnosis, “free thinking”, and dream analysis (Foerschner). Freud believed that allowing a patient to focus on repressed thoughts and feelings, he could cure the patient of his/her disorder.
One form of psychoanalysis had goals to help and individual “identify and achieve their own goals” and would keep patients occupied and “thus cure them from delusions and irrationalities” (Dain). Lastly, Somatic treatment was introduced in asylums which included psycho-pharmacology, psychosurgery, electroconvulsive therapy, and electric shock therapy, among others.
The first non-sedative drug used in the treatment of patients was chlorpromazine which “cured” many mental ailments and patients “became free of symptoms entirely and returned to functional lives” (Drake).
The introduction of pharmacology led to the deinstitutionalization reform which changed the view from institutionalized care to “community-oriented care” to improve the “quality of life” (Module 2). According to Foerschner, this backfired and led to 1/3 of the homeless population being the mentally ill.
Many of the treatments enacted on mentally ill patients throughout history have been “pathological sciences” or “sensational scientific discoveries that later turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking or subjective effects” and haven’t actually benefited those being treated.
As the social perspectives and knowledge have changed, so has the treatment of those afflicted with mental pathologies. These treatments will continue to change as the world expands on its knowledge of brain pathology.
As Leeman says, “mental illness is not accurately described as a disease of the mind or brain and… treatment must attend to the whole patient” so as we continue forward in our knowledge of psychology we must learn from “the foibles of earlier generations” (Leeman).
Dain, Norman, PhD. “The Chronic Mental Patient in 19th-Century America.” Psychiatric Annals 10.9 (1980): 11,15,19,22. ProQuest. Web. 25 Sep. 2014.
Drake, Robert E., et al. “The History of Community Mental Health Treatment and Rehabilitation for Persons with Severe Mental Illness.” Community mental health journal 39.5 (2003): 427-40. ProQuest. Web. 25 Sep. 2014.
Foerschner, Allison M. “The History of Mental Illness: From ‘Skull Drills’ to ‘Happy Pills’.” Student Pulse 2.09 (2010).
Kesey, Ken. “One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. New American Library, 1962. Print.
Leeman, Eve. “Mental Illness: Learning from the Foibles of Earlier Generations.” The Lancet 351.9100 (1998): 457. ProQuest. Web. 25 Sep. 2014.
Module 2. “Module 2: A Brief History of Mental Illness and the U.S. Mental Health Care System.” A Brief History of Mental Illness and the U.S. Mental Health Care System. Unite For Site. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.
Asbestos is a highly versatile, strong, cheap, non flammable malleable substance that has been used in building, textiles and construction for the last 2000 years. Asbestos is also a highly toxic airborne fibrous substance that causes a number of different incurable cancers in the humans that are exposed to it. Asbestos is in many homes around the world and is still being used.
Asbestos became popular in the building industry for its natural properties and affordability – desirable physical properties: sound absorption, average tensile strength, its resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage. When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibers are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. These desirable properties made asbestos a very widely used material, and its use continued to grow throughout most of the 20th century until the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects of asbestos dust caused its effective demise as a mainstream construction and fireproofing material in most countries
So how did Asbestos become so wide spread? Where did it come from and how to we rid ourselves of the asbestos that is in more than a 3rd of the homes around the world?
Asbestos is a Naturally Accuring Mineral
Asbestos is mined straight from the ground. It is a naturally occurring mineral that can be dug out of the earths surface, with Russia as the greatest supplier or Asbestos. There are six different types of Asbestos, defined mostly by their colour.
Asbestos is minded from an open pit and looks a lot like wood in it’s raw form. After it is separated from the earth and other matter, the asbestos is processed and refined into fluffy fibres. These fibres are then mixed with a binding agent a lot like cement. Sheets and pipes made from Asbestos are not 100 percent asbestos but simply a product that contains asbestos.
Asbestos in Ancient Times
Asbestos has been mined and used for over 4 000 years, however it was not mined on a large scale until the 19th century when it started to be used in housing. Health issues related to asbestos exposure can be found in records dating back to Roman times.
The word asbestos comes from the ancient Greek, meaning “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable”. Pliny (the younger) make reference to clothes being made of asbestinon in his earliest journals. He states, ‘it is rare and impressive and sold for the same price and the finest pearls.’ He makes note of people cleaning their napkins by setting them on fire. He also makes note of a sickness in the asbestos miners, but there are few details relating to this.
Pliny the Younger wrote in AD 61-114 that slaves who worked with the mineral asbestos became ill, there seems to be no exact reference that can be found. Word of mouth only.
For a long time the damaging effects of Asbestos fibres to people, it was not until 1924 that the very first case of asbestosis was diagnosed. Asbestosis would later be called Mesothelioma as the cancer that asbestos causes effects the mesothelial cells.
Asbestos and the Industrial Revolution
Asbestos regained significant popularity as the world, specifically Great Britain, entered the Industrial Revolution. As powered machinery and steam power became more and more prevalent, so did the need for an efficient and effect way to control the heat needed to create and power the machines at the centre of the paradigm shift. Asbestos served as a perfect insulator for high-temperature products like steam pipes, turbines, ovens, and kilns; all things that helped facilitate the Industrial Revolution.
The increase in demand for asbestos sparked the first commercial asbestos mines to open in 1879 in Quebec providence of Canada. Mines opened shortly thereafter in Russia, Australia, and South Africa. By 1900, doctors started reporting lung sickness and pulmonary fibrosis in patients who had worked in asbestos textile factories and asbestos mines.
Despite the resurgence of health concerns, asbestos became very important in the United States as the railroad infrastructure was put into place. Asbestos become an important solution to prevent heat build up and temperature fluctuation in steam powered trains, and again when the steam powered trains shifted to diesel power. By WWII, asbestos was being used in the shipping industry (as insulation to components subjected to high heat), the automobile industry (as brake and clutch lining), and in the construction industry (in a wide variety of products included insulation, siding, and cement).
During the industrial revolution asbestos rose in popularity because of it’s amazing ability to control heat. Asbestos served as a perfect insulator for high-temperature products like steam pipes, turbines, ovens, and kilns; all things that helped facilitate the Industrial Revolution and the industrialisation of production and manufacture.
The increase in demand for asbestos sparked the first commercial asbestos mines to open in 1879 in Quebec providence of Canada. It was not long after this mine opened that others were established in Russia, Australia, and South Africa. By 1900, doctors started reporting lung sickness and pulmonary fibrosis in patients who had worked in asbestos textile factories and asbestos mines.
Despite the resurgence of health concerns, asbestos became very important in the United States as the railroad infrastructure was put into place. wether the toxic risk of Asbestos was underestimated, ignored or hidden, asbestos played a huge part in the production and building of railway lines all over the world.
By WWII, asbestos was being used in the shipping industry, the automobile industry (as brake and clutch lining), and in the construction industry (in a wide variety of products included insulation, siding, and cement).
Mesothelioma and Asbestos
Is the cancer that effects the mesothelial cells. The mesothelial cells cover almost every organ inside your body. These cells form a lubricating and protective coating over the organs called a mesothelium. Mesothelioma is the cancer of the mesothelial cells.
Almost everyone who is diagnosed with mesothelioma was exposed to Asbestos, be it from the workplace, home or air bone fibres.
James Hardie and Asbestos
James Hardie was one of the largest manufacturers and distributers of Asbestos in Australia. While many companies over the last 50 years have been paying compensation to employees who were victim to Asbestos related diseases and cancers. The history of Asbestos is closely linked to it’s victims however it is too enormous to cover in this article, read more on James Hardie Here and Here.
Asbestos Removal in Homes
The removal of Asbestos from building and homes will be a long and expensive process. Asbestos can only be disposed of at a registered disposal facility. These sites are registered with the Australian government and are the only people that can perform the disposal. It is illegal to leave asbestos anywhere else in Australia.
While it is legal for you to remove Asbestos from your home yourself, it is advised that you do not undertake this process alone. Safety equipment, breathing apparatus and the proper means to clean up afterwards should be factored into your asbestos removal.
While the toxic and carsengenic qualities of asbestos are widely know, there are still a number of countries in the world that are mining huge amounts of asbestos for commercial use. We can be sure that no more of it is used in Australia, but there is no such uniform ban on the substance throughout the world.
Beards have had many uses during the history of humans. Early humans used beards for warmth and intimidation. In current times, they have been used to show masculinity, royalty, fashion, and status.
Prehistoric men grew beards for warmth, intimidation and protection. Facial hair kept prehistoric men warm and it also protected their mouths from sand, dirt, the sun and many other different elements. A beard on a man’s face creates the look of a stronger looking jaw line; this exaggeration helped them appear more intimidating.
In 3000 BCE to 1580 BCE, Egyptians royalty used a false beard that was made of metal. This false beard was held onto the face by a ribbon that was tied over their heads. This practice was down by both kings and queens. Ancient Egyptians were also known to die their chin beads with reddish brown to strong brown dyes.
Mesopotamian civilizations took great care of their beards. They would use products like beard oil to keep their beards looking healthy. They would also fashion their beards using ancient curling irons and make ringlets, frizzles, and tiered effects. The Assyrians dyed their beards black, and the Persians died theirs a orange-red color. During ancient times, in Turkey and India, when someone had a long beard it was considered a symbol of wisdom and dignity.
During ancient times, in Greece, beards were a sign of honor. Ancient Greeks commonly curled their beards with tongs in order to create hanging curls. Their beards were cut only as a punishment. Around 345 BCE Alexander the Great decreed that soldiers couldn’t have beards. He was afraid that opposing soldiers would grab on to the Grecians’ beards and use it against them while in battle.
Ancient Romans preferred their beads to be trimmed and well groomed. A Roman by the name of, Lucius Tarquinius Pricus, encouraged the use of razors in order to guide the city to hygienic reform in 616-578 BCE. Although Pricus tried to encourage shaving, it still was not generally accepted until 454 BCE. In 454 BCE, a group of Greek Sicilian barbers traveled from Sicily unto main land Italy. They set up barber shops that were situated on the mains streets of Rome. These barber shops were typically only used by people who didn’t own slaves, because if you owned a slave they would shave you instead. Eventually shaving started to become the trend in ancient Rome, philosophers kept their beards regardless of the trend.
Anglo-Saxons wore beards until the advent of Christianity in the 7th century. Once Christianity came around the clergy were required by law to shave. English princes sported mustaches until 1066-1087 CE when a law by William the First created a law that required them to shave in order to fit in with Norman fashions. Once the Crusades began the return of beards also began. For four centuries all sorts of facial hair was allowed. It was much like current times, where men could choose from beards, mustaches and clean shaven faces. In 1535 beards became fashionable again and with it came all sorts of sorts of styles and lengths. Anglo-Saxon men began to starch their beards in the 1560s.
In the early 1600s, a painter named Sir Anthony Vandyke began to paint many aristocrats with pointed beards. This style of beard was called the Vandyke. The men used pomade or wax to shape their beards, and they applied with tiny brushes and combs. The people of this time invented different gadgets in order to keep mustaches and beards in shape while they slept.
There have been many beard styles throughout the ages. A style made popular by Abraham Lincoln, is called the chin curtain. This is when there is facial hair along the jawline which is long enough to hang from the chin. American essayist, Henry David Thoreau, had a style called the chinstrap beard. This style is achieved when sideburns are connected to each other by a narrow hair line along the jaw. English heavy metal musician, Lemmy Kilmister wore his facial hair in a style called, friendly muttonchops. Friendly muttonchops are formed when muttonchops are connected by a mustache and there is no chin hair. Another facial hair style is the goatee. The goatee is when only the hair around the chin and mustache are left on the face. American professional wrestler, Hulk Hogan, was famous for the style horseshoe mustache. This is a full mustache with ends that extend down in parallel strait lines all the way down to the chin line.
Currently, about 33% of American males have facial hair of some kind, while 55% of males worldwide have facial hair. Women found full bearded men to be only 2/3rd as attractive as clean-shaven men.
Contemporary Beard Products
Beard products have come a long way from their humble beginnings. In ancient Egypt they used false beards, you can still purchase false beards. Unlike in ancient Egypt these false beards are not made of gold.
Also, just like men from Mesopotamia used beard oil, you can purchase beard oil.
More Historical Fun Facts
Otto the Great, swore on his beard, as someone in current times would swear on their mother’s grave.
During the middle ages, if a man touched another man’s beard it was offensive and could be grounds for a duel.
In the 16th century, men started experimenting with their beards and came up with trends like the forked beard and even a style called the stiletto beard.
Mental Illness in Antiquity
The label schizophrenia is a recent term, first used in 1908 by Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, and was meant to describe the disunity of functioning between personality, perception, thinking and memory. Whilst the label is new, accounts of schizophrenia-like symptoms can be found in ancient texts dating back to 2000 BC, and across a number of cultural contexts. The oldest of these texts is the ancient Egyptian Ebers papyrus, around two millennia old.
There are descriptions of illnesses marked by bizarre behaviour and lack of self-control in the Hindu Arthava Veda, dating approximately 1400 BC, and a Chinese text from approximately 1000 BC called The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which attributes insanity and seizures to supernatural and demonic forces.
The Greeks and Romans are also found to have a general awareness of psychotic illnesses. Plato, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries BC, spoke of a madness of divine origin, which could inspire poets and create prophets. Demonic possession and supernatural forces as the cause of mental illness are a common theme in the ancient literature.
Whilst we can infer these ancient scribes were reporting on the symptoms and causes of the illness we currently describe as schizophrenia, we cannot be certain of it. Some suggest that the lack of clear diagnostic examples in the older literature points to schizophrenia being an entirely modern affliction. Perhaps cultural differences in the understanding of a sufferer’s behaviour can account for the discrepancy in reporting of the illness in ancient times.
The Middle Ages – A Demonic Affliction
The Medieval era saw the beginnings of formal detention and institutionalisation of those deemed mentally ill. In Europe, sufferers were occasionally cared for in monasteries. Some towns had “fools towers”, which housed madmen. In The 1400’s, a number of hospitals to treat the insane sprang up throughout Spain.
In England in 1247, The Priory of Saint Mary of Bethlehem was founded – later known as the notorious Bedlam, the word becoming synonymous with madness itself.
Whilst scholars and Universities at this time had developed a scientific approach towards mental disturbances, there was still a great deal of belief in the lay population in supernatural forces.
In 15th century Europe, delusions and hallucinations were seen as proof of demonic possession. Treatments to overcome these disturbances included confession and exorcism.
Schizophrenia and Early Psychiatry
It is not until the middle of the 19th century that European psychiatrists begin to describe a disease, of unknown origin, typically with an adolescent onset and with a propensity towards chronic deterioration. Emil Kraeplin, a German psychiatrist, utilised the term “dementia praecox” to describe a variety of previously separately recognised illnesses, such as adolescent insanity and catatonia syndrome.
Kraeplin’s long term studies of a large number of cases led him to believe that despite the diversity of clinical presentations, the commonalities in the progression of the illness meant they could be categorised under the singular heading of dementia praecox. Later, he suggested nine categories of the disorder.
This leads us to Eugen Bleuler, who coined the term schizophrenia, meaning “split mind”, replacing the previous terminology dementia praecox. Bleuler’s “schizophrenia” incorporated an understanding that the disorder was a group of illnesses, and did not always deteriorate into a permanent state of “dementia” – as was previously considered by Kraeplin to be a hallmark of the disease.
Further, Bleuler suggested schizophrenia had four main symptoms, known as the 4 A’s: blunted Affect – a reduction in emotional response to stimuli, loosening of Associations and disordered pattern of thought, Ambivalence, or difficulty making decisions, and Autism, by which he meant a loss of awareness of external events and preoccupation with one’s own thoughts.
Schizophrenia and Eugenics
Increased scientific understanding of schizophrenia and other mental illness was overshadowed by persistent stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness. Schizophrenia was thought to be an inheritable disorder, and as such sufferers were subject to Eugenics and sterilisation.
In 1910, Winston Churchill, wrote to the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, insisting on the implementation of mass forced sterilisations of those deemed feeble minded and insane.
Churchill was not successful in implementing this policy. Forced sterilisation was, however, practised in parts of the USA throughout the twentieth century, and Nazi Germany utilised Eugenics as justification for extreme measures against those it saw as undesirable, including the mentally ill.
Examples of treatments for what would be recognised today as a mental illness go back thousands of years, and include trepanning, the drilling of holes into the skull to allow evil spirits to exit, and various forms of exorcism. The ancient Greeks and Romans tended to employ somewhat enlightened and humane treatment methods.
The Greeks applied their theory of humoural pathology, or the belief that an imbalance in the body’s various fluids could induce madness, amongst other illnesses.
Treatment involved correcting the imbalance in fluids, and encompassed dietary and lifestyle changes, to blood-letting and purging. The Roman treatments consisted of warm baths, massage and diets, although more punitive treatments were also suggested by Cornelius Celsus, stemming from the belief that the symptoms were caused through having angered the gods, and included flogging and starvation.
We may view some of the older techniques for treating mental illness as deplorable, yet many modern pre-pharmacotherapy treatments were unfortunately not much better in some respects.
From the wretched conditions of many asylums, the raising of the body temperature by injection of sulphur and oils to insulin shock therapy, which kept the patient in a coma, deep sleep therapy and electroconvulsive therapy, which were all widely used treatments for schizophrenia and a variety of other mental illnesses prior to the advent of anti-psychotics, patients could expect widely variable results and the risk of further harm.
Lobotomy, developed in the 1930’s, also became a popular treatment for schizophrenia. Initially, the procedure required an operating theatre as holes were drilled into the skull, and either alcohol injected into the frontal lobes or an instrument called a leucotome used to create lesions in the brain.
The technique was soon refined and simplified. American psychiatrist Walter Freeman, seeking to make the procedure accessible to patients in asylums where there was no access to an operating theatre, developed the trans orbital lobotomy. Freeman accessed the prefrontal area through the eye socket, and using an instrument similar to an ice pick made a series of cuts.
The process was quick, and for many had devastating effects, patients were left with impairments of intellectual, social and cognitive function, and often there was no great improvement in the symptoms for which the procedure was performed.
Current Treatments and Research
Antipsychotic drugs to treat schizophrenia were first introduced in the 1950’s. Their success led, in part, to the deinstitutionalisation and integration of sufferers into the community. Antipsychotics, whilst allowing many sufferers of schizophrenia to lead functional lives, have their drawbacks.
Common adverse side effects can include weight gain, involuntary movements, lowered libido, low blood pressure and tiredness. Antipsychotics do not represent a cure for schizophrenia, but used in combination with community based and psychological therapies, sufferers have every chance of recovery.
The internet has also become a useful tool for schizophrenia sufferers and their families, friends and carers, with many useful resources and schizophrenia support sites now available.
Scientific investigations in to the causes and treatment of schizophrenia are ongoing, with a focus on genetic research, which will hopefully lead to more effective treatments and possibly prevention. Information on current research is available here.
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