Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/753

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

time and watched it. If she tried to stop thinking, she became anxious and distressed and had to continue. Finally, this condition passed away as suddenly as it came.

This, then, is an example of a fear relating to a simple physiological act, which calls the attention to the act, and gives rise to great distress of mind, I have seen persons who were unable to talk or to move a hand, or to walk, because of such a fear that they could not move; the fear appearing to suspend the power of volition. When the fear was quieted, and assurance regained, the power returned. In other cases, an imperative desire to do some absurd or useless thing seems to take possession of the mind. Thus, a little girl of delicate nervous organization, and who had been studying rather too earnestly in school, was suddenly seized with the impulse to count everything. If she enters a room she counts the chairs, the objects on a table, the bric-a-brac, or the pattern in a carpet. If she begins to talk, she has to count the words she says, or the words spoken by any one else, so that she is obliged to talk slowly, and is often so occupied in counting that she forgets what she is going to say before it is done. If she is made to stop, she feels great distress and a sense of anxiety which is painful.

Such fears may extend to higher mental acts involving volition.

One of the postmen whose duty it is to collect letters from the corner boxes in New York was recently discharged because he was always behind time on his rounds. He was much distressed at this, and finally revealed the reason: As he went about he would empty a box and lock it, but after going a few steps he would be seized with a fear that he had not locked the box, so he would go back and feel of it and assure himself that it was locked, and then start on again, but only to be again seized with this fear, which led to the impulse to return and try the box again. Thus, he would often return three or four times to each box emptied, and, of course, the delay made him so late on his rounds that he lost his place. He could not control the fear, or reason against it. The anxiety overcame him each time, and it was impossible to avoid the return.

A middle-aged lady, of much intellectual force and a keen power of analysis, had suffered from distressing mental tendencies ever since a child. These became very intense about her fortieth year, and remained for five years. She is abnormally conscientious—constantly imagines things which she ought to have done, and reproaches herself with not having done; or thinks of things which are wrong which she might do, and then reproaches herself for the thought. She once thought that she might thrust a needle into the eye of a person whom she loved;