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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/475

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nervous disorders, can frequently be traced to the influence of after-dinner work—work, perhaps, requiring severe mental application, though the brain aches for rest—while about a million of American school-teachers and counting-house drudges still aggravate their misery by the use of tonic bitters in the United States, and of ginger-drops and chilé colorado in South America. Narcotic drinks are an equally fruitful source of nervous affections, and tea, the chief culprit, is too often mistaken for a liberator. A cup of "good, strong tea" relieves a nervous headache in exactly the same manner that medicated whiskey relieves the distress of a torpid liver, and the fact that the abnormal excitement is regularly followed by a depressing reaction would not undeceive the victim of the stimulant-delusion, if the repetition of the stimulation-process were not sure to impair the efficacy of the tonic, unless the dose is steadily increased. Only after that increase has in vain been carried to an alarming extent, the patient is apt to look for a less delusive remedy. And yet the sudden discontinuance of a long-wonted tonic will at first aggravate the distress to a degree that would overtax the endurance of most persons, and the trials of the transition period should therefore be mitigated by the influence of some healthy stimulus—the diversion of a journey, or of an exciting and very pleasant occupation. Indigestible made dishes should also be carefully avoided, and the gratitude of suffering thousands—both nurses and patients—awaits the philanthropist who shall give us a treatise on the art of preparing an appetizing dinner without the use of the frying-pan. Nervous people are extremely fastidious, especially in the choice of their solid food, and doubly so after the interdict of their favorite liquids, yet a single plateful of fried and spiced viands may bring on a relapse of the unhappiest symptoms, with the attendant mental affections of the poor followers of Epicurus who "would be perfect gentlemen if it were not for their tantrums." Spleen is a disorder of the nerves, rather than of the brain, and a large complexus of nerve-organs is situated in the close proximity of the stomach. The eel-stews of Mohammed II kept the whole empire in a state of nervous excitement, and one of the meat-pies which King Philip failed to digest caused the revolt of the Netherlands. If hired girls had a vote in the matter, ladies of a certain temper would be restricted to a diet of attractive vegetables.

Everything that tends to exhaust the vital resources of the body disposes it to nervous disorders. Sexual excesses, therefore, contribute a large share to the debilitating influences of civilized life. Hysterical affections may sometimes result from the unsatisfied cravings of the sexual passion, but chiefly because the suppression of that instinct often leads to its perversion. There is such a thing as mental incontinence; the writings of hysterical nuns, for instance, abound with erotic effusions. And, while spinsters and widows are often strong minded to an unsexing degree, the most pitifully nervous women are