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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/786

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764
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

a hypnotized subject, keeping them in their place with some strips of diachylon and a compress; at the same time he suggested to the subject that he had applied a blister. The subject was watched, and when twenty hours had elapsed the dressing, which had remained untouched, was removed. The epidermis to which it had been applied was thickened and dead and of a yellowish-white color, and this region of the skin was puffy and surrounded by an intensely red zone.

It was in 1869 that Russell Reynolds first noted the existence of motor and sensory disturbances, developed under the influence of an idea. The motor disturbance sometimes consists in spasms, in ataxic or incoordinated movements, and more frequently in paralysis which affects the upper limbs. Erb gives to these symptoms the name of imaginative paraplegia.

The type of this paraplegia is afforded by Reynolds's first observation, which concerned a young woman who was affected by paraplegia under the following circumstances: She lived alone with her father, who had undergone a reverse of fortune, and who became paralytic in consequence of protracted anxiety. She supported the household by giving lessons, which involved long walks about the town. Influenced by the fatigue caused by so much walking, it occurred to her that she might herself become paralyzed, and that their situation would then be terrible. Haunted by this idea, she felt a growing weakness in her limbs, and after a while was quite unable to walk. The pathology of the affection was understood by Reynolds, who prescribed a purely moral treatment. He finally convinced his patient that she was able to walk, and in fact she resumed the practice.

Diseases have been termed imaginary, or diseases caused by the imagination, and this confusion of terms has confirmed the confusion of ideas. We have, however, just shown, especially by means of the facts which relate to paralysis by suggestion, that diseases caused by the imagination—that is, produced by a fixed idea—are real diseases, and, at any rate in some cases, display undisputed objective. symptoms.

Since the existence of real diseases, produced by means of the imagination, is proved, it is thereby proved that imaginary diseases do not and can not exist; by this we mean purely fictitious diseases, since as soon as the subject has accepted the fixed idea that he is affected by any functional disturbance, such a disturbance is in some degree developed. It should be added that these diseases, produced by means of the imagination, are not merely influenced by a local disturbance; the subject who allows himself to be dominated by this idea of disease must be peculiarly excitable and open to suggestion; he must be endowed with a condition of congenital psychical weakness which is frequently found in conjunction with more or less strongly marked neuropathic manifestations, or with physical malformations. As Lasègue observed, not every one who pleases can be hypochondriac.