By Richard Noll

In 1895 there has been now not a unmarried case of dementia praecox mentioned within the usa. by way of 1912 there have been tens of millions of individuals with this prognosis locked up in asylums, hospitals, and jails. via 1927 it used to be fading away . How may perhaps this sort of negative affliction be came upon, have an effect on such a lot of lives, after which turn into anything else?In brilliant aspect, Richard Noll describes how the invention of this mysterious disease gave desire to the overworked asylum medical professionals that they can finally explain—though they can no longer cure—the depressing sufferers surrounding them. the tale of dementia praecox, and its eventual alternative via the recent suggestion of schizophrenia, additionally finds how asylum physicians fought for his or her personal respectability. If what they have been watching was once a affliction, then this organic fact used to be amenable to clinical learn. within the early 20th century, dementia praecox was once psychiatry’s key into an more and more science-focused scientific profession.But for the instant, not anything can be performed to assist the victims. whilst the idea that of schizophrenia provided a clean realizing of this illness, and wish for a remedy, psychiatry deserted the outdated ailment for the recent. during this dramatic tale of a vanished prognosis, Noll indicates the co-dependency among a ailment and the medical prestige of the career that treats it. The ghost of dementia praecox haunts today’s debates in regards to the newest iteration of psychiatric issues. (20111027)

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Additional resources for American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox

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41 Given the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, the ignorance of the causes or vectors of transmission of many diseases, the lack of responsiveness to the crusade of the public health movement, and the inability or unwillingness of assistant physicians to conduct thorough medical examinations of the patients, the insane were sometimes ravaged by epidemics of various infectious diseases. Diphtheria, typhoid fever, and dysentery commonly stormed through asylums. Tuberculosis—sometimes still referred to as consumption, graveyard cough, or the white plague (a reference to the cadaverous complexion of its victims)—was also a particularly persistent affliction.

21 Meyer, it should be remembered, had attended only a few lectures on psychiatry from August Forel in 1888. So he had to cobble together his material from the confusing and sometimes contradictory array of opinions he found in the psychiatric literature. Each author seemed to have his own terminology (nomenclature) and classification (nosology) of insanity. Which to choose? 22 Despite this challenge Meyer seemed to have found his niche: the classes were a success. The alienists seemed to relish learning neurological and psychiatric material from this young “German” doctor with a professorial bearing.

This would mark a rise in rank and institutional power equal to that of as- ADOLF ME YER BRINGS DEMENTIA PRAECOX TO AMERICA 43 sistant physician. Still unsure of himself, Meyer refused. “You know all about my irritability and ner vousness,” he wrote to his brother on 21 August 1893. ”19 Meyer also got permission to construct a document containing a structured interview for an alienist to follow when conducting the initial evaluation. Such interviews were usually conducted when the patient was placed in the bathtub directly after admission, and some alienists spent no more than three to five minutes recording a history from new patients.

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