Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/645

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INSANITY.

We stop, without having yet exhausted the list of possible processes for preserving food. New ones are discovered from time to time, which may prove practically applicable for general use; and many are still in an experimental stage, not yet sufficiently tested or sufficiently perfected to justify recommending them to the public.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from, Die Natur.

 

INSANITY.
BY ONE WHO HAS BEEN INSANE.

PERHAPS, if some of our most celebrated experts, in cases of insanity, had been, for a while at least, insane themselves, it would have been to the advantage of science. Of some diseases, like malarial fever, or small-pox, a physician can doubtless give a better idea than the patient who has suffered from them; because, these diseases being distinctly physical, the symptoms furnished by the body are generally sufficient data for an accurate diagnosis. But insanity may be said to possess more of a psychological than a physiological character. The brain, being the organ through which the mind communicates with the outside world, can not, if it becomes disordered or diseased, give or receive any trustworthy intelligence. Only the patient himself can know his condition, and he only so far as he can subsequently recall his experiences. Sometimes his recollections are confused and worthless, and at other times they are remarkably vivid. I have been undoubtedly insane twice, the delusions on each occasion continuing for the space of three or four weeks. These attacks occurred several years ago, and were about six or seven months apart. I propose, in this article, to allude to so much of my experience, during the two periods, as may throw some little light upon a subject that has always been as interesting as it is obscure, and that has occupied the attention of some of the ablest intellects in this country and in Europe.

In consequence of overwork, excitement, and mental anxiety, my nervous system had become almost totally prostrated, and I suddenly and without warning lost my reason. Neither my friends nor myself had received any such intimations as led us to apprehend a calamity of that kind. So far as we knew, there had never been any insanity among my ancestors or relatives. During the trial of Guiteau, it may be remembered, the question was raised, to what extent insanity could be regarded as hereditary. A distinction without a difference was drawn between inheriting insanity and inheriting a tendency to become insane. Few persons, perhaps, are born insane; and few are born with consumption. A man whose ancestors have been drunkards is