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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/342

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

deficient power of self-control, over-sensitiveness in all directions, and a very great many other unpleasant things, far too numerous to mention here. This nervousness is commonly hereditary, but may be greatly aggravated or counteracted by the conditions of life, especially in youth. Such a constitution is a great curse to a woman, and renders her liable to many diseases. It means a brain wanting in reserve or surplus energy. Such a brain is like a galvanic battery that does not work steadily, but gives out too much power at one time, then suddenly is exhausted, and is always needing replenishing. There can be but little doubt that the tendency of our modern life is toward the development of the nervous type of constitution, or diathesis. American physicians and socialists are unanimous that this constitution is very common in their country. I think there can be little doubt that, if we wish our descendants to multiply and cover the earth, we should try by all means and counteract this tendency to the nervous constitution in a morbid degree. It is most hereditary in all its forms. There are few families among the educated classes nowadays free from some taint of it, and it is easily increased. In the families that are now free there is much risk of its being developed in the period of adolescence in the girls, through the present system of education. All our modern ways of looking at life help to develop nerves in a bad sense. The ideal of man and woman has changed from strength to culture, from body to brain. The great brawny-muscled man, who knows nothing of sickness, but has few ideas, is looked down on; the rosy mother of a dozen healthy children, who has no taste for books, is little thought of. It may be that the time will come when such people will be more highly appreciated. Out of the nervous diathesis may arise all the forms of nervous disease, when their exciting causes are put in operation.

Strongly connected with nervousness is the tendency to suffer from pain without any actual disease being present to account for it; that is, to be the subject of headaches and neuralgias. Headache is the most common thing suffered by school-girls, and originated by the conditions of school-life. Dr. Truchler found that in Darmstadt, Paris, and Nuremburg, one third of the pupils in the schools suffered more or less from headaches. I think we should find this proportion in our advanced girls' schools in Edinburgh. He concludes that it is caused by the intellectual exertion, combined with bad air, with the annoyances and excitements and worries, the wasting and rasping anxieties of school-life. Nothing is so terrible as severe neuralgia, and beyond a doubt girls acquire it often enough by the conditions of school-life. Headaches in a school-girl usually mean exhausted nerve-power through overwork, over-excitement, over-anxiety, or bad air. Rest, a good laugh, or a country walk, will usually cure it readily enough to begin with. But to become subject to headaches is a very serious matter, and all such nervous diseases have a nasty tendency to recur, to become periodic, to be set up by the same causes, to become