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Drawings of ‘mental illnesses’ from 1840

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“Female patient suffering from erotomania, 1843.”

Science is a bit like Doubting Thomas—it has to see the evidence before believing it. And sometimes even then it is just theories about what was or was not seen.

Way back in the early 1800s, many scientists thought it an idea to use visual representation, through illustrations and engraving, to help codify the system of identifying say, organs, bones, types of disease, and even mental illness. For example, a drawing of someone suffering from buboes caused by the pox would help diagnose a patient with similar buboes also caused by the pox. It was a logical, well-intended, and noble idea, one that helped create the many books on anatomy and disease which progressed the development of medicine from the 1700s on—most notably Gray’s Anatomy in 1858.

The physician and alienist, Sir Alexander Morison (1779—1866) pioneered the documentation of psychiatric illness during the early to mid-1800s. An “alienist” is the archaic term for a psychiatrist or psychologist. Morrison was inspecting physician at the Surrey Asylum and Bethlehem Hospital. He excelled in the diagnosis and treatment of those poor unfortunate people who suffered from mental illness. He was a wise and kindly old gent, who wrote two texts of great importance on psychiatric illness—Outlines of Lectures on Mental Diseases (1826), and Cases of Mental Disease, with Practical Observations on the Medical Treatment (1828). But these were but a warm-up for his illustrated volume The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases in 1840.

The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases contained descriptions of the various types of mental illness, case studies of various patients from a selection of England’s psychiatric hospitals, and some possible treatments. At the time, psychiatric care was going through a much-needed overhaul, with patients being treated as suffering from a (possibly) curable disease rather than being written-off as possessed by demons or just too fucked-up to no longer defined as human and dumped in bedlam where they were often exhibited to the amusement of the paying public. Morrison devised (whether by himself or in collaboration is unclear) the idea of illustrating his book on The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases with a series of portrait engravings of the patients whose case studies he was describing. It was a very useful idea.

However, it does suggest that mental illness can always be identified through a patient’s facial expressions—as if there are certain universal physical attributes that define all types of mental illness. Moreover, such drawings were open to possible caricature with artists exaggerating certain facial tics or expressions which may or may not be relevant. Morrison’s approach was valued until the 1850s, when the photograph was deemed to be the more scientific and reliable choice for documenting mental illness by his successor at the Surrey Asylum, the physician and pioneering photographer Hugh Welch Diamond.
 
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Portrait of 20-year-old female mental patient.

 
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More engravings from ‘The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases,’ after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.15.2017
11:51 am
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‘Abuse of tea’ and other strange reasons for admission to a Scottish insane asylum, 1847
05.17.2016
12:33 pm
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We’ve previously posted a rather shocking list of reasons for admission to the West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane—aka the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum—back in the late-1800s. Well, here’s another list of causes for admission to the Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum in 1847—which contains some strange and troubling reasons for being committed including:

Sedentary Life
Tea drinking (“Abuse of Tea”)
Vegetable Poisoning
Acute Rheumatism
Cancer of Breast
Prolonged Nursing
Childbirth
Religious excitement
Loss of Property
Disappointment in Love
Fright

And if none of these common symptoms fit the bill, there’s the catchall: “Cause not ascertained.”
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
List of Reasons for Admission to an Insane Asylum from the late 1800s

Via NHS Grampian Archives.

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.17.2016
12:33 pm
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What’s left of sexologist Krafft-Ebing’s personal collection of erotica

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Meanwhile, back at the Krafft-Ebing household.
“Ah, Richard, there you are—where have you been?”
“My dearest, I’ve been out…er…shopping.”
“Shopping? I hope you’ve not been buying any more of those dirty postcards with images of sexual congress and strange and unnatural fetishes.”
“Well, em, yes, as a matter of fact, I have.”
“But darling, you promised...”
“I know, I know, but these images of sexual congress and strange and unnatural fetishes are essential for my scientific research!”
“Your scientific research?”
“Yes, my sweet. These are not merely dirty postcards—these are prime examples of diverse sexual practices, which are essential research for the book I am writing.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I suppose that’s all right then.”
“Yes, it certainly is. Now, if you will kindly excuse me, I must…er…examine these new specimens… in private.”

I am sure it was never like that, but then again who knows? As Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) certainly did have a fine excuse for collecting “French postcards” and assorted erotica during his lifetime. This Austro-German psychiatrist took a keen interest in all aspects of human sexual behavior and wrote an early pioneering book on the subject called Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. This tome was intended as “a medico-forensic study,” a kind of reference book to be used by psychiatrists or as he described it: “men engaged in serious study in the domains of natural philosophy and medical jurisprudence.” Krafft-Ebing’s study popularized the terms “sadism,” “masochism” and “fetishism,” and was the first medical science book to examine homosexuality, bi-sexuality, necrophilia, pederasty, coprophilia, bestiality, transvestism, and exhibitionism.

However, some of his ideas reflected the mores of the day rather than objective scientific investigation—for example, he considered any non-procreational sex as “a perversion of the sex drive.”

“With opportunity for the natural satisfaction of the sexual instinct, every expression of it that does not correspond with the purpose of nature,—i.e., propagation,—must be regarded as perverse.”

He also thought homosexuality was an “inversion of the brain” caused during pregnancy. So he was far more vanilla than his personal collection of erotica might suggest.

Psychopathia Sexualis was of major importance in its day—but was quickly superseded by the work of an Austrian neurologist, the cocaine-injecting Sigmund Freud, whose studies into sex, dreams and human behavior made him the father of psychoanalysis.

This rather small selection of postcards and photographs is (apparently) nearly all that remains of Krafft-Ebing’s personal collection of erotica. The images deal with transvestism, with some reference to S&M, and mainly feature one particular individual. It is unknown who any of the people are, though two are rather fun examples of the infamous dirty or “French” postcard, which were popular across Europe from the 1880s onward.
 
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More from Krafft-Ebing’s personal collection of erotica, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.30.2015
09:34 am
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