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MEDICAL AND GENERAL]
503
INSANITY

restlessness, these attacks of restlessness become more and more marked as self-control diminishes, and as the depression increases the disease passes the borderland of sanity.

In the fully developed disease the appearance of the patient is typical. The expression is drawn, depressed, anxious or apprehensive. The skin is yellow and parchment like. The hair is often dry and stands out stiffly from the head. The hands are in constant movement, twisting and untwisting, picking the skin, pulling at the hair or tearing at the clothes. The patient moans continuously, or emits cries of grief and wanders aimlessly. Mentally the patient, although depressed, miserable and self-absorbed, is not confused. There is complete consciousness except during the height of a paroxysm of restlessness and depression, and the patient can talk and answer questions clearly and intelligently, but takes no interest in the environment. Some of the patients suffer from delusions, generally a sense of impending danger, but very few suffer from hallucinations.

Physically there is loss of appetite, constipation and rapid heart action, a great increase in the number of the white blood corpuscles, particularly of the multinucleated cells which are frequently increased in bacterial infections. In the blood serum also there can be demonstrated the presence of agglutinines to certain members of the streptococci group.

The course of the disease is prolonged and chronic. The acute symptoms tend to remit at regular intervals, the patient becoming more quiet and less demonstratively depressed; but as a rule these remissions are extremely temporary. Excited melancholia is a disease characterized by repeated relapses, and recoveries are rare in cases above the age of forty.

Treatment.—There is no curative treatment for excited melancholia. The patient must be carefully nursed; kept in bed during the exacerbations of the disease and treated with graduated doses of nepenthe or tincture of opium, to secure some amelioration of the acute symptoms. Careful dieting, tonics and baths are of benefit during the remissions of the disease, and in a few cases seem to promote recovery.

Folie circulaire, or alternating insanity, was first described by Falret and Baillarger, and more recently Kraepelin has considerably widened the conception of this class of disease, which he describes under the term “manic-depressive insanity.” Of the two terms (folie circulaire and manic-depressive insanity) the latter is the more correct. Folie circulaire implies that the disease invariably passes through a complete cycle, which description is only applicable to very few of the cases. Manic-depressive insanity implies that the patient may either suffer from excitement or depression which do not necessarily succeed one another in any fixed order. As a matter of fact, the majority of patients who suffer from the disease either have marked excited attacks with little or no subsequent depression, or marked attacks of depression with a subsequent period of such slight exaltation as hardly to be distinguished from a state of health.

Depression of the manic-depressive variety, therefore, may either precede or follow upon an attack of maniacal excitement, or it may be the chief and only obvious symptom of the disease and may recur again and again. The disease attacks men and women with equal frequency, and as a rule manifests itself either late in adolescence or during the decline of life. Hereditary predisposition has been proved to exist in over 50% of cases, beyond which no definite predisposing cause is at present known. A considerable number of cases follow upon attacks of infective disease such as typhoid fever, scarlet fever or rheumatic fever. The actual exciting cause is probably an intestinal toxaemia of bacterial origin; at all events, mal-nutrition, gastric and intestinal symptoms not infrequently precede an attack, and the condition of the blood—the increase in number in the multinucleated white blood corpuscles and the presence of agglutinines to certain members of the streptococci group of bacteria—are symptoms which have been definitely demonstrated by Bruce in every case so far examined.

If the depression is the sequel to an attack of excitement, the onset may be very sudden or it may be gradual. If, on the other hand, the depression is not the sequel of excitement, the onset is very gradual and the patient complains of lassitude, incapacity for mental or physical work, loss of appetite, constipation and sleeplessness often for months before the case is recognized as one of insanity. In the fully developed disease the temperature is very rarely febrile, on the contrary it is rather subnormal in character. The stomach is disordered and the bowels confined. The urine is scanty, turbid and very liable to rapid decomposition. The heart’s action is slow and feeble and the extremities become cold, blue and livid. In extreme cases gangrene of the lower extremities may occur, but in all there is a tendency to oedema of the extremities. The skin is greasy, often offensive, and the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are sodden.

Mentally there is simple depression, without, in the majority of cases, any implication of consciousness. Many patients pass through attack after attack without suffering from hallucinations or delusions, but in rare cases hallucinations of hearing and sight are present. Delusions of unworthiness and unpardonable sin are not uncommon, and if once expressed are liable to recur again during the course of each successive attack. The disease is prolonged and chronic in its course, and the condition of the patient varies but little from day to day. When the depression follows excitement, the patient as a rule becomes fat and flabby. On the other hand, if the illness commences with depression, the chief physical symptoms are mal-nutrition and loss of body weight, and the return to health is always preceded by a return of nutrition and a gain in body weight.

The attacks may last from six months to two or three years. The intervals between attacks may last for only a few weeks or months or may extend over several years. During the interval the patient is not only capable of good mental work but may show capacity of a high order. In other words this form of mental disorder does not tend to produce dementia; the explanation probably being that between the attacks there is no toxaemia.

Treatment.—There is no known curative treatment for the depression of manic-depressive insanity, but the depression, the sleeplessness and the gastric disorder are to some extent mitigated by common sense attention to the general health of the body. If the patient is thin and wasted, then treatment is best conducted in bed. The diet should be bland, consisting largely of milk, eggs and farinaceous food, given in small quantities and frequently. Defecation should be maintained by enemata, and the skin kept clean by daily warm baths. What is of much more importance is the fact that in some instances subsequent attacks can be prevented by impressing upon the patient the necessity for attending to the state of the bowels, and of discontinuing work when the slightest symptoms of an attack present themselves. If these symptoms are at all prominent, rest in bed is a wise precaution, butcher-meat should be discontinued from the dietary and a tonic of arsenic or quinine and acid prescribed.

Mania.—The term mania, meaning pathological elevation or excitement, has, like the term melancholia, been applied to all varieties of morbid mental conditions in which the prevailing mental symptom is excitement or elevation. Mania. As in melancholia so in mania various subdivisions have been invented, such as delusional mania, religious mania, homicidal mania, according to the special mental characteristics of each case, but such varieties are of accidental origin and cannot be held to be subdivisions.

Under the term mania two distinct diseased conditions can be described, viz. acute mania, and the elevated stage of folie circulaire or manic-depressive insanity.

Acute Mania.—Acute mania is a disease which attacks both sexes at all ages, but its onset is most prevalent during adolescence and early adult life. Hereditary predisposition, physical and mental exhaustion, epileptic seizures and childbirth are all predisposing causes. The direct exciting cause or causes are unknown, but the physical symptoms suggest that the condition is one of acute toxaemia or poisoning, and the changes in the blood are such as are consequent on bacterial toxaemia.

The onset is gradual in the large majority of cases. Histories of sudden outbursts of mania can rarely be relied on, as the illness is almost invariably preceded by loss of body weight, sleeplessness, bad dreams, headaches and symptoms of general malaise, sometimes associated with depression. The actual onset of the mental symptoms themselves, however, are frequently sudden.