Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
606
[MEDICAL AND GENERAL
INSANITY

Another is the rightful heir to a peerage, of which he is to be deprived. Women frequently believe themselves to be abducted princesses or heirs to the throne. Others of both sexes, even more ambitious, assume divine attributes and proclaim themselves Virgin Marys, Gabriels, Holy Ghosts and Messiahs. Cases are recorded in which the delusions of grandeur were of sudden onset, the patient going to bed persecuted and miserable and rising the following morning elated and grandiose. In this stage the hallucinations persist but appear to change in character and become pleasant. The king hears that arrangements are being made for his coronation and waits quietly for the event. The angel Gabriel sees visions in the heavens. The heirs and heiresses read of their prospective movements in the court columns of the daily papers and are much soothed thereby. In short, no delusion is too grotesque and absurd for such patients to believe and express.

Cases of delusional insanity never become demented in the true sense of the word, but their mental state might be described as a dream in which an imaginary existence obliterates the experiences of their past lives.

Treatment.—No treatment influences the course of the disease. During the stage of persecution such patients are a danger to themselves, as they not infrequently commit suicide, and to their supposed persecutors, whom they frequently assault or otherwise annoy.

Katatonia.—This disease, so called on account of the symptom of muscular spasm or rigidity which is present during certain of its stages, was first described and named by K. L. Kahlbaum in 1874. Many British alienists refuse to Katatonia. accept katatonia as a distinct disease, but as it has been accepted and further elaborated by such an authority as E. Kraepelin reference to it cannot be avoided.

Katatonia attacks women more frequently than men, and is essentially a disease of adolescence, but typical cases occasionally occur in adults. Hereditary predisposition is present in over 50% of the cases and is the chief predisposing cause. Childbirth, worry, physical strain and mental shocks are all advanced as secondary predisposing causes. The disease is one of gradual onset, with loss of physical and mental energy. Probably the earliest mental symptom is the onset of aural hallucinations. For convenience of description the disease may be divided into (1) the stage of onset; (2) the stage of stupor; (3) the stage of excitement.

The symptoms of the stage of onset are disorders of the alimentary tract, such as loss of appetite, vomiting after food and obstinate constipation. The pulse is rapid, irregular and intermittent. The skin varies between extreme dryness and drenching perspirations. In women the menstrual function is suppressed. At uncertain intervals the skeletal muscles are thrown into a condition of rigidity, but this symptom does not occur invariably. The instincts of cleanliness are in abeyance, owing to the mental state of the patient, and as a result these cases are inclined to be wet and dirty in their habits.

Mentally there is great confusion, vivid hallucinations, which apparently come on at intervals and are of a terrifying nature, for the patient often becomes frightened, endeavours to hide in corners or escape by a window or door. A very common history of such a case prior to admission is that the patient has attempted suicide by jumping out of a window, the attempt being in reality an unconscious effort on the part of the patient to escape from some imaginary danger. During these attacks the skin pours with perspiration. The patient is oblivious to his surroundings and is mentally inaccessible. In the intervals between these attacks the patient may be conscious and capable of answering simple questions. This acute stage, in which sleep is abolished, lasts from a few days to four or six weeks and then, generally quite suddenly, the patient passes into the state of stupor. In some cases a sharp febrile attack accompanies the onset of the stupor, while in others this symptom is absent; but in every case examined by Bruce during the acute stage there was an increase in the number of the white blood corpuscles, which, just prior to the onset of stupor, were sometimes enormously increased; the increase being entirely due to multiplication of the multinucleated or polymorphonuclear leucocytes.

In the second or stuporose stage of the disease the symptoms are characteristic. The patient lies in a state of apparent placidity, generally with the eyes shut. Consciousness is never entirely abolished, and many of the patients give unmistakable evidence that they understand what is being said in their presence. Any effort at passive movement of a limb immediately sets up muscular resistance, and throughout this stage the sternomastoid and the abdominal muscles are more or less in a state of over-tension, which is increased to a condition of rigidity if the patient is interfered with in any way. This symptom of restiveness or negativism is one of the characteristics of the disease. The patient resists while being fed, washed, dressed and undressed, and even the normal stimuli which in a healthy man indicate that the bladder or rectum require to be emptied are resisted, so that the bladder may become distended and the lower bowel has to be emptied by enemata. The temperature is low, often subnormal, the pulse is small and weak, and the extremities cold and livid. This symptom is probably due in some part to spasm of the terminal arterioles. Mentally the symptoms are negative. Though conscious, the patient cannot be got to speak and apparently is oblivious to what is passing around. Upon recovery, however, these cases can often recount incidents which occurred to them during their illness, and may also state that they laboured under some delusion. Coincidently with the onset of the stupor sleep returns, and many cases sleep for the greater part of the twenty-four hours. The duration of the stuporose state is very variable. In some cases it lasts for weeks, in others for months or years, and may be the terminal stage of the disease, the patient gradually sinking into dementia or making a recovery. The third stage or stage of excitement comes on in many cases during the stage of stupor: the stages overlap; while in others a distinct interval of convalescence may intervene between the termination of the stupor and the onset of the excitement. The excitement is characterized by sudden impulsive actions, rhythmical repetition of words and sounds (verbigeration), and by rhythmical movements of the body or limbs, such as swaying the whole frame, nodding the head, swinging the arms, or walking in circles. The patient may be absolutely mute in this stage as in the stage of stupor. Others again are very noisy, singing, shouting or abusive. The speech is staccato in character and incoherent. Physically the patient, who often gains weight in the stage of stupor, again becomes thin and haggard in appearance owing to the incessant restlessness and sleeplessness which characterize the stage of excitement. The patient may, during the stage of onset, die through exhaustion, or accidentally and unconsciously commit suicide usually by leaping from a window. During the stuporose stage symptoms of tubercular disease of the lungs may commence. All the adolescent insane are peculiarly liable to contract and die from tubercular disease. Accidental suicide is also liable to occur during this stage. The stage of excitement, if at all prolonged, invariably ends in dementia. According to Kraepelin 13% of the cases recover, 27 make partial recoveries, and 60% become more or less demented.

Treatment.—No treatment arrests or diverts the course of katatonia, and the acute symptoms of the disease as they arise must be treated on hospital principles.

Hebephrenia.—This is a disease of adolescence (Gr. ἥβη) which was first described by Hecker and Kahlbaum and more recently by Kraepelin and other foreign workers. Hebephrenia is not yet recognized by British alienists. Hebephrenia. The descriptions of the disease are indefinite and confusing, but there are some grounds for the belief that such an entity does exist, although it is probably more correct to say that as yet the symptoms are very imperfectly understood. Hebephrenia is always a disease of adolescence and never occurs during adult life. It attacks women more frequently than men, and according to Kahlbaum hereditary predisposition to insanity is present in over 50% of the cases attacked. The onset of the disease is invariably associated with two symptoms. On the physical side an arrested or delayed development and on the mental a gradual failure of the power of attention and