Horrifying treatments for mental disorders: How our ancestors cured mental illnesses

Mental health problems have failed to receive the required attention for generations. Till date, people tend to discard the idea of suffering from mental illness and refuse to seek medical help. The stigma attached to mental disorders leads to the mentally ill people staying untreated. They often fail to understand the serious consequences of ignoring the mental illnesses.

While a mental illness hinders the day-to-day life, it can also trigger suicidal tendencies or push a person to substance abuse. Occurrence of mental illness has been evident ever since the evolution of human life. However, the inability to understand the symptoms and causes of mental illness in the history gave birth to stigmas, misconceptions and myths about mental disorders. This further led to development of various kinds of treatment, methods or measures to cure mental conditions.

Below are some horrifying forms of treatment that were used to cure mental illnesses in the past:

  1. Trepanation: It is one of the oldest methods of treating mental illness. It was practiced nearly 7,000 year ago during the Neolithic era. It was one of the creepiest methods where a hole was drilled in the skull of the patient identified to be suffering from a mental illness. Earlier, it was thought that mental illness occurred when a man was possessed by a demon. Therefore, the hole was drilled to give a way to the demon to escape. The hole was made with various tools, such as trepan, bore, auger or a saw.
  2. Rotational therapy: This therapy was introduced by Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin. Erasmus was a physician, a scientist and a philosopher and rose to fame through this therapy. According to him, mental illness was a disease that could be cured through sleep and believed that spinning the patient around fast could induce sleep in him/her. Erasmus’ therapy was picked up by Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the America’s Founding Fathers and signatory to the Declaration of Independence, before it was dismissed. As per Rush, mental illness occurred due to congestion in the brain, hence spinning would untangle the jamming.
  3. Lobotomy: The concept of lobotomy was developed by a Portuguese neurosurgeon, Egas Moniz. According to him, the frontal lobe of the brain was the home to all kinds of mental illnesses. Hence, cutting the lobe would automatically cure the disease. He developed the idea from an incident where a violent and feces-throwing monkey was brought under control by cutting his frontal lobe. The therapy was widely accepted until the same was improvised by an American doctor, Dr. Walter Freeman, who chose to disable the frontal lobe by inserting an ice pick into the eye socket and swirl it around. But the use of unsterilized equipment and ineffective surgical technique in the process caused more damage to the brain, which resulted unresponsiveness in patients.
  4. Chemically induced seizures: As compared to other gross treatment options in the history, chemically induced seizures method had certain logic. Hence, the method remained prevalent for some time. The treatment was developed by Ladislas von Meduna who observed that seizures could calm epileptics. Taking a cue from the observation, he experimented with drugs like strychnine and absinthe before settling on metrazol to induce seizures in schizophrenics. As per studies, the induced seizure released the chemicals that were otherwise absent in the schizophrenic brain and this improved the condition. However, the therapy was discarded owing to its side-effects like memory loss and fractured bones.
  5. Hydrotherapy: As the name suggests, hydrotherapy involved water in treating mental illness. Some psychiatrists in the early 20th century developed treatments out of water, such as warm baths or an invigorating shower, for patients with mental disorders. While few of the treatments were harmless, some others, such as submerging the patients in bath for hours and days, or mummifying the patient in towels soaked in ice-cold water. In many cases, doctors also used high-pressure jets or fire hose after strapping the patient in the crucifixion position. Fortunately, the therapy was soon replaced by psychiatric drugs.

Safer road to recovery

All the methods developed in the past were misleading and life-threatening due to the lack of understanding of the cause of mental illness. However, with development in science, studies have been able to identify the cause and risk factors that trigger a mental disorder. Therefore, the present-day therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are not only safe but also effective, with negligible side effects. Even the drugs used to cure mental disorders are experimented to cause minimal side effects.

If you or your loved one is showing symptoms of any mental illness, seek medical help immediately from the best mental health centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 559-3923 or chat online. Our certified medical representatives will help you get in touch with the best mental health rehabilitation centers in California.

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