Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/101

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Our general social conditions, in which the ease that once prevailed is approaching nearer and nearer to extinction, undoubtedly have a great deal to do with the preponderance of nervous diseases.

On the other hand, it can not be too impressively insisted upon that the individual has the means to a certain degree in his own hands of alleviating by a rational mode of life the general harm to which modern man is exposed. But it has to be remarked that the greater number of us, in spite of all the instruction we get, remain in incredibly dense ignorance of matters of personal hygiene. It thus occurs that many allow themselves to be guilty of sins against their own personality by which the health of their nerves is broken to the very marrow. Besides overwork on the one side, there are certain special indulgences, abuse of spirits and other stimulants, too early and excessive tobacco-smoking, and in the majority of cases all together, by which the nervous system is at last disordered and severely injured in its vigor. I was told by an officer that he began to smoke in his twelfth year, and when he marched to France as an ensign he now and then smoked ground coffee when he had no tobacco. It is not to be wondered at that this officer became insane a few weeks after his marriage, and had to be put in an asylum. In other cases there are more or less self-accused disillusions, cares, sorrows, and similar mental conditions, through which the nervous system is weakened and thrown off the track.

Through all these processes waste products are formed in the body, which, acting as self-poisons, cause more or less disturbance in the nervous system. In consequence of the storing up of these self-poisons, patients complain of sleeplessness, nervous pains appearing here and there in diversified alternations, and of being easily fatigued after brief mental or bodily efforts. They are often cross, overcome by trifles, and very frequently complain of nervous disturbances. Nervous dyspepsia is therefore in many cases associated with neurasthenia.

Sadly numerous as such cases of neurasthenia appear at this time, our knowledge has advanced so far that we can, with good heart, give promise of comfort and courage to nervously afflicted persons. For, even in apparently critical cases, a surprisingly favorable result may be reached by the exercise of a little patience combined with a proper and intelligently directed general hygiene. I sincerely advise nervous patients to avoid, as much as possible, all drug remedies. Especially would I warn them against habitual use of benumbing narcotics, however seductively they may operate at first. In my opinion, all these means ultimately do more harm than good.

Of immensely greater value than drugs to nervous patients