American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox by Richard Noll

By Richard Noll

2012 BMA clinical booklet Award, hugely counseled in Psychiatry, British clinical Association

2012 Cheiron publication Prize, Cheiron, overseas Society for the background of the Behavioral and Social Sciences

In 1895 there has been no longer a unmarried case of dementia praecox stated within the usa. by means of 1912 there have been tens of hundreds of thousands of individuals with this prognosis locked up in asylums, hospitals, and jails. through 1927 it used to be fading away . How might any such negative illness be came across, impact such a lot of lives, after which become anything else?

In vibrant element, Richard Noll describes how the invention of this mysterious ailment gave wish to the overworked asylum medical professionals that they can eventually explain--though they can now not cure--the depressing sufferers surrounding them. the tale of dementia praecox, and its eventual substitute by means of the recent proposal of schizophrenia, additionally finds how asylum physicians fought for his or her personal respectability. If what they have been gazing used to be a disorder, then this organic truth was once amenable to medical study. within the early 20th century, dementia praecox was once psychiatry's key into an more and more science-focused clinical profession.

But for the instant, not anything might be performed to aid the victims. whilst the idea that of schizophrenia provided a clean realizing of this disease, and wish for a remedy, psychiatry deserted the outdated disorder for the recent. during this dramatic tale of a vanished analysis, Noll indicates the co-dependency among a illness and the clinical prestige of the career that treats it. The ghost of dementia praecox haunts brand new debates concerning the most modern iteration of psychiatric issues.

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Extra info for American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox

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Hypodermic needles were often reused with little or no attempt at proper sterilization. Basic medical care of the insane generally declined at the same time that some institutions began changing their official names from “asylums” to “hospitals”— a grim irony. These conditions continued to exist into the next century. “One institution of more than 1,000 patients did not have T H E W O R L D O F T H E A M E R I C A N A L I E N I S T, 1 8 9 6 33 a functioning microscope for several months. One psychopathic institute did not have a microscope, a manometer or an urinalysis outfit in the institution,” the Chicago surgeon Bayard Taylor Holmes (1852– 1924) wrote in 1911.

To Americans in awe of German medicine, he with his German accent and fastidious manner represented the superior Old World of learning 40 ADOLF ME YER BRINGS DEMENTIA PRAECOX TO AMERICA and culture— and he certainly used this projection by others to his advantage. But even at a young age Meyer did not suffer fools gladly, and he expressed his rage or disdain coldly rather than heatedly. His occasional lack of tact and his ever-present undertone of arrogance extended to his writings. His intellectual gifts allowed him to seize upon the weakness of any theory or method, but his manner of expressing such insights could sometimes be quite harsh.

Paresis, or the “general paralysis of the insane,” one of the most prevalent afflictions witnessed in asylums, was one of these. ” General paralysis cases were perhaps the most distinctive in the asylum, the most specifiable insanity—but only to the trained eye. On his very first day as assistant physician at the Binghamton State Hospital in New York, a massive facility with a census of just under one thousand insane patients, William Alanson White was met by the new superintendent, Charles G. Wagner: I recall my introductory walk through the wards with him.

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