Connect with us


Four Things Considered Mental Illnesses 100 Years Ago

The 20th century marked the implementation of sweeping reforms in the mental health industry. Where sufferers once languished in cramped and dingy asylums to stew in their own psychosis, society began to take a greater interest in treating individuals with understanding and patience. Although living conditions for the mentally ill improved immeasurably after the 1850s, the scientific knowledge to make diagnoses still needed some work. These are four physical or mental states considered to be a real type of mental illness over 100 years ago, complete with treatment methods and pseudo-scientific explanations.

Prior to the 20th century, women who acted outside of their accepted societal roles were diagnosed with a mental illness known as hysteria. Patients were said to suffer from a lack of attention from their husbands or the ill-effects of unmarried life. The exact scientific cause of this affliction varied from doctor to doctor. Some ascribed it to a build-up of toxic fluids in the womb, while others thought it was largely a psychological phenomenon. The list of symptoms was just as ambiguous, including everything from clogged sinuses to rebellious actions. Hysteria was treated with pelvic massages and other relaxation techniques, or women were simply told to see their husbands more and, if single, advised to marry as soon as possible.
The stigma against homosexuality originated in Europe in the 12th century. Christian churches that had long ignored the practice began to openly preach against it, eventually leading to an entrenched prejudice across the western world. Once the needs of a modern civilization brought science into the realm of medicine, that fear of homosexuality carried over into the field of psychology. Although some experts like Sigmund Freud argued that homosexuality was a natural state and should not be discriminated against, the prevailing attitude carried well into the late 20th century and is only now beginning to be reversed in the mind of the public. Homosexuality was officially removed from the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” in 1973.
In the years before the Civil War, Southern plantation owners were faced with a puzzling situation. Their slaves continued to run away, seeking freedom in the North. Rather than accept the glaring double-standard, slave-owners were given a more palatable answer in the form of drapetomania, or the incurable need of an African American to run away. Introduced by Samuel Cartwright in 1851, the theory was widely scorned in the North but gained considerable traction in the South. The only known treatment was to remove the “ill” individual’s toes.
Lead Poisoning
Today, there’s a major scandal every time microscopic levels of lead are found in children’s toys, but a few centuries ago it was in almost everything. People dined on lead plates, wore lead makeup, drank wine infused with lead and were exposed to it on a daily basis in urban buildings and construction sites. The progressive deterioration associated with exposure to lead had been noted by civilizations as ancient as the Greeks and Egyptians. In fact, the word “saturnine” comes from the god Saturn and indicates the gloomy, withdrawn attitude of someone with lead poisoning. And yet, despite the evidence, lead was still widely used into the 20th century.
Scientific studies in the 1900s, and continuing into the 2000s, found that lead exposure significantly lowers IQ development in children, increases the likelihood of schizophrenia and causes behavioral troubles in the affected. Many mental illnesses diagnosed over the past millenia were, in all likelihood, simply the byproduct of the unthinkable lead levels experienced by human beings on a daily basis.

Featured images:
  •  License: Creative Commons image source

James Duncan is a family counselor and guest author at, where you can find guides and information about online counseling degree programs.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts

Business2 days ago

Why Is Quantity Surveying Essential in Construction Industry

Quantity surveying is an essential part of the Australian construction industry. It is the process of calculating and estimating the...

Home Improvement4 days ago

How to Maintain Upholstered Furniture

No matter if you have pets or kids, maintaining your upholstered furniture is quite a challenge. Even though vacuuming it...

Business1 week ago

How Do I Find a Good Developer?

Finding a good bubble developer to help build your app or digital product can seem challenging. How can you choose...

Home Improvement2 weeks ago

When is a right time for home repairs?

Summer is a popular time for a renovation around the globe. While it is true that bright days and warm...

Top Alteryx Competitors Top Alteryx Competitors
Tech3 weeks ago

Top 15 Alteryx Competitors

The world has seen a tremendous rise in startups and new incorporations in the business world. Companies have great potential...

Lifestyle1 month ago

Latest Wedding Trends for 2023

If you’re planning on getting married this year, chances are you’re probably overwhelmed and confused when it comes to wedding...

Lifestyle1 month ago

Tips To Make The Most Of Your City Break In London!

London is one of the best cities in the world, known for its quintessentially British culture, great nightlife, fantastic museums...

General1 month ago

The Ultimate Guide To Packing For A Trip To London

London is one of the best cities in the world, known for it’s rich history, quintessentially British culture, the best...

Tech2 months ago

Top 15 Web Development IDEs

The web development field has seen sustainable growth throughout the years. As technology is advancing, so is the web development...

devops devops
Tech2 months ago

12 Key DevOps Programming Languages to Still Popular in 2022

“DevOps is not a goal, but a never-ending process of continual improvement.” – Jez Humble Delivering the finest of services...

Entertainment2 months ago

Festival Fashion Style Tips For 2022

Summer is well and truly here and with that comes the festival season! From the biggest stars performing on stage...

Green & Energy2 months ago

4 Tips For Making Your Wardrobe More Sustainable

Everyone is trying to make more of an effort to make their wardrobe more sustainable, but often are unsure where...

General3 months ago

7 tips on how to organize a budget-friendly move

If you are planning a move any time soon, you might be worried about all the expenses that wait for...

Metal Roof Colors Metal Roof Colors
Home Improvement3 months ago

Metal Roof Colors: How to Select the Best Color for a New Roof

Choosing the right type of material for your roof is enough of a hassle already that the question of choosing...

Health3 months ago

Simple Ways To Feel More Confident At The Gym

If you are new to the gym, or you haven’t been in a while, sometimes you might not feel completely...