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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/811

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DELUSIONS OF DOUBT.

doctor's coat, or the books on his table. M. Legrand du Saulle tells of a patient who would say, "Excuse me, it is involuntary, but I must count." Some celebrated men seem to have a similar mania. Dr. Johnson never omitted to step on every stone of the walk as he passed them; and, if by any chance he thought he had forgotten one, he would go back to touch it. Napoleon was in the habit of counting by pairs the windows as he went along the street. Other forms of this madness escape all classification. I have just seen a patient in whom an acute rheumatism has been followed by a special trouble of the will. If he is going into a house, or out of it, he experiences an invincible resistance at the door-sill, and he has to be urged before he can get over the obstacle. Sometimes, on the public road, he can not pass a tree or a stone. He is also persecuted by certain words, and when one of them gets into his head he repeats it through the whole day.

Some of these patients are described as being affected with an exaggerated fear of the contact of exterior objects. This is true. It has been attested by numerous observers, but the doubting folly can exist without such a complication, and our patient, who has no fear of the kind, is a proof of it. On the other side, the fear of contact may exist without the doubting folly.

A few additional characteristics will complete our view. The doubting folly is a conscious insanity. Persons afflicted with it are perfectly aware of their condition, and able of their own motive to put themselves under medical care. A second important characteristic is that persons afflicted with it seldom labor under hallucinations. When these occur it is the result of some other form of delirium which may be present in addition to this. A third characteristic is the perpetual desire the patients experience of having their doubts quieted by the affirmation of another person. A woman, cited by M. Ritti, was always afraid that she had said or done something reprehensible. If a person who could inspire confidence in her told her nothing of the kind had occurred, she immediately became calm again. A patient, who came to consult me, expressed doubts as soon as she entered my office as to whether I was really a doctor. Upon my answering that I was, she asked permission to inquire of the persons who were waiting in the parlor if I really exercised the medical profession. Sometimes patients of this class, after having solicited reassuring affirmations and having exhausted all the forms of question that imagination could suggest, add the demand, "Will you write it down for me?"

One of the most curious instances of this whim is related by M. Baillarger: A man about sixty years old had a passion, whenever he went to the theatre, for becoming acquainted with everything relating to the actresses he saw. He would want to know their age, their address, their family position, their ways of life, their habits, and their responsibilities. Tormented by this fixed idea, he had to deprive himself of the pleasure of going to the play. Soon, however, the