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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/526

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upon the bodily life, quiet and equable when moderate, but when stronger, evinced in the brilliancy of the eye, in the quickened pulse, in an inclination to laugh and sing; grief, or other depressing passion has an opposite effect, relaxing the arteries, enfeebling the heart, making the eye dull, impeding digestion, and producing an inclination to sigh or weep." This exaggeration of the emotions, seen in many cases among women, may be considered a serious factor in inducing some of the most common diseases of the nervous system from which Americans, in particular, are suffering.

In his treatise on the causes of these nervous diseases Dr. Ross, of London, says: "Psychical disturbances are a prolific source of disease of the nervous system, and it is probable that as civilization advances these causes will exercise a more and more predominant influence in the production of nervous disease. The depressing passions, such as fright, alarm, disgust, terror, and rage, have, no doubt, in all ages, exerted a deleterious influence on the nervous system; but in the present day the keen competition evoked by the struggle for existence in the higher departments of social life must subject the latest evolved portion of the nervous system to a strain so great, that those only possessing the strongest and best balanced nervous system can escape unscathed." Of these nervous diseases, nervous exhaustion and hysteria were never more rife than to-day.

As regards the occurrence of hysteria, while it is frequently found among those belonging to what we call the lower classes of society, it is more frequently manifested among the more highly cultivated. A French author who, indeed, speaks for his own country only, states that one out of four of all females are decidedly affected with hysteria, and that one-half present an undue impressionability which differs very little from it. Although these statistics are too high for America, they are significant as being possible anywhere, and not the less so as coming from a land where, if a woman is anything, she is emotional.

Among the frequent causes of hysteria, all writers mention the depressing passions, such as fear, anxiety, jealousy, and remorse. One says: "The chief mental characteristic of hysterical patients is an excessive emotional excitability unchecked by voluntary exertion." And again: "This excessive emotional activity necessarily induces exhaustion." The treatment of this affection recognizes, first and last, the influence of mind over body. We find that moral suasion, the employment of the individual in directions without herself, the cultivation of an intellectual purpose, of an objective quality of mind, are remedies that rank with the nervines and antispasmodics in the treatment of this disorder.

As regards nervous exhaustion, Ave find that affection is almost entirely confined to the more highly civilized portions of the community—indeed, is a disease of civilization. Among the causes of nervous exhaustion this same truth is manifest—that excessive demands upon