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View Full Version : Treatment for Melancholia (Late 17th-Early 18th Centuries)


AZ_Dawn
04-17-2008, 01:18 AM
I have a severely depressed character. Nowdays, he'd probably be sent to a shrink, but what would the treatment be in his time? I found this site (http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/remedies/mind.html), but I'm not sure if it's adequate for the whole time period.

Any advice? It would be really great if the treatment were available on board a ship, but rum doesn't count. ;) Thanks!

TerzaRima
04-17-2008, 02:44 AM
Dawn--IIRC, people of the time tended to correlate mental illness with criminality (the famous Bedlam hospital shared property and administration with a prison). Accordingly, treatment could be fairly punitive--cold baths, purges, starvation. Also, the idea of institutionalizing mentally ill people was probably just taking off in the mid-1600s.

I am no historian, but I have read that George III's madness was one of many factors that helped change the way people thought about mental illness. The more modern, altruistic model--i.e. these are sick people, they need treatment and protection--probably owes a lot to the Quakers and their efforts early in the 19th c.

donroc
04-17-2008, 03:14 AM
For what it is worth:

Borago officinalis, BorageThe ancient Greek naturalist Pliny said that borage ‘maketh a man merry and joyful.’ Dioscorides, the first century Greek physician, mentioned the use of borage to ‘comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the lunatic person.’
John Evelyn, the seventeenth century English herbalist, spoke of borage ‘to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student’, while his contemporary Culpepper used the plant for ‘putrid and pestilential fever, the venom of serpents, jaundice, consumption, sore throat and rheumatism.’

girlyswot
04-17-2008, 07:24 AM
My guess is that if he's on board ship the most likely treatment was confinement - locked cabin, shackles etc. And the next most likely treatment was being thrown overboard. Sailors were/are pretty superstitious about that sort of thing.

pdr
04-17-2008, 07:24 AM
Still badly treated in the Victorian times.

General reaction would be the humours were out of balance so purges and leeches and other nasty treatment.

Also another common reaction would be a punishment from God to the patient, s/he was ill because s/he was a sinner, or the patient was not Godly enough and demons were tormenting hir!

In a woman it would be called going into a decline and they were urged to snap out of it with varying degrees of brutality.

Just a thought though, we still are not very good with depressed people today are we?

JoNightshade
04-17-2008, 07:32 AM
Uh, these extreme treatments were used on obviously mentally ill people, but nobody would have thought of a depressed person as "mentally ill."

Samuel Johnson is a pretty good example of someone with chronic depression: low motivation, often did not want to get out of bed, etc. His friends would try to cheer him up; for a time he drank a lot. He found solace in religion.

Check out the wikipedia article on melancholia if you haven't, I think you'll get some ideas.

ETA: Also, has something happened to trigger your character's depression? How is he actually BEHAVING? Just depressed, or is he trying to self-harm, or what? This would determine how others would treat him.

AZ_Dawn
04-18-2008, 02:17 AM
Thanks, guys! This is a big help.


Dawn--IIRC, people of the time tended to correlate mental illness with criminality (the famous Bedlam hospital shared property and administration with a prison). Accordingly, treatment could be fairly punitive--cold baths, purges, starvation. Also, the idea of institutionalizing mentally ill people was probably just taking off in the mid-1600s.

I guess that explains the site's sections on Binding, Chains, and Whipping.:whip:


Borago officinalis, BorageThe ancient Greek naturalist Pliny said that borage ‘maketh a man merry and joyful.’ Dioscorides, the first century Greek physician, mentioned the use of borage to ‘comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the lunatic person.’
John Evelyn, the seventeenth century English herbalist, spoke of borage ‘to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student’, while his contemporary Culpepper used the plant for ‘putrid and pestilential fever, the venom of serpents, jaundice, consumption, sore throat and rheumatism.’

I heard about borage, but I wasn't sure if they were still using it during my time; looks like they were.


My guess is that if he's on board ship the most likely treatment was confinement - locked cabin, shackles etc. And the next most likely treatment was being thrown overboard. Sailors were/are pretty superstitious about that sort of thing.

:eek: Never heard of that one! I might need to check that out.


General reaction would be the humours were out of balance so purges and leeches and other nasty treatment.

Also another common reaction would be a punishment from God to the patient, s/he was ill because s/he was a sinner, or the patient was not Godly enough and demons were tormenting hir!

Poor guy's going to have both the surgeon and the chaplain on his back!


ETA: Also, has something happened to trigger your character's depression?
It's more of an ongoing problem than a triggered event. Being a lifelong victim of bullying doesn't help, though. Neither did finding out his "sister" was his mother at her deathbed, joining the navy to avoid jail time, etc.


How is he actually BEHAVING? Just depressed, or is he trying to self-harm, or what? This would determine how others would treat him.

Probably the most obvious sign would be the occasional crying for no apparent reason. (Sure, he waits 'til he thinks everyone's asleep, but he's been overheard on occasion.) Other signs include going through the motions of living and working; lack of sociability; lack of appetite; poor sleep; and snapping at anyone who calls him on his mental problems. He's also prone to excessive drinking, but I don't think anyone would make the connection.

As far as self-harm goes, he comtemplates suicide a lot. If that were to become known for some reason, there could be problems, I guess.

HeronW
04-18-2008, 02:52 AM
For depression a few hundred years ago -- confinement for melancholia up to being bled, purges, assorted draughts of noxious stuff, having the devil beat or starved out of you, even banishment or execution so it 'doesn't spread'.

PastMidnight
04-18-2008, 04:29 AM
Also think of how the other sailors might react if they hear him crying or see him moping about. They might give him a hard time for acting like a sissy, or whatever sailors at that time would say. And that wouldn't help.

I wonder how likely it would be that someone would say, "Wow, I think you need help. Let's call the surgeon/chaplain." More likely he'd get a, "Suck it up and stop acting like a pansy." He might have to decide to seek help on his own?

AZ_Dawn
04-19-2008, 12:35 AM
Thanks, guys! I'm getting a lot of helpful answers here.

Also think of how the other sailors might react if they hear him crying or see him moping about. They might give him a hard time for acting like a sissy, or whatever sailors at that time would say. And that wouldn't help.

Hmm. I think I see an extra reason why he jumps ship and deserts.

Bo Sullivan
04-19-2008, 04:19 AM
Still badly treated in the Victorian times.

General reaction would be the humours were out of balance so purges and leeches and other nasty treatment.

Also another common reaction would be a punishment from God to the patient, s/he was ill because s/he was a sinner, or the patient was not Godly enough and demons were tormenting hir!

In a woman it would be called going into a decline and they were urged to snap out of it with varying degrees of brutality.

Just a thought though, we still are not very good with depressed people today are we?

I agree with pdr about purges and leeches in those times; but also cupping or blood letting I think, if there was a ship's surgeon.

Barb

pilot27407
04-19-2008, 04:59 AM
Many hallucinogenic medication was used during Antiquity, Middle Ages and all the way into Victorian times. Chinese medicine, as far back as 500 BC, used opium to cure depressive moods, and the military to fortify for battle. In the eighteen hundreds, Dutch physicians prescribe ‘beteal’ (betel), an East Indies vegetal substance, to induce, ‘happiness’, sleep, immunity to certain maladies and to alleviate pain. Was also used as an aphrodisiac

bylinebree
04-21-2008, 11:23 PM
Chinese medicine, as far back as 500 BC, used opium to cure depressive moods, and the military to fortify for battle.

Yikes, that is pretty terrible since opium is a narcotic, and thus a depressant in itself! How on earth could it prepare soldiers for battle, if they need all their wits to fight? Weird.

pilot27407
04-22-2008, 04:50 AM
Missed the chance to ask them,.. by some 2,500 years.
But, look at the 1900 Boxers Rebellion. Wave after wave of frontal attacks were machine-gunned and still they didn’t stop. They were definitely ‘high’.

Pup
04-22-2008, 05:30 AM
Yikes, that is pretty terrible since opium is a narcotic, and thus a depressant in itself! How on earth could it prepare soldiers for battle, if they need all their wits to fight? Weird.

Check out point number four on the page here (http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA21&dq=opium+fatigue+date:0-1860&lr=&id=KwEAAAAAQAAJ&as_brr=0&output=html)in The Mysteries of Opium Reveal'd, 1701.

I really try not to comment on medical stuff long before my period of interest, since it's too easy to miss the context of what one is reading, and this is about 150 years too early for me. But it looks like there are several early 18th century medical books on Google Books, like the one above, a few pharmacopoeias, and some general discussions of diseases and treatments, like this (http://books.google.com/books?pg=RA1-PA299&dq=melancholia+date:0-1750&lr=&id=AfTYBAn04PwC&as_brr=3&output=html) one about melancholia from Boerhaave's Aphorisms, Concerning the Knowledge and Cure of Diseases, 1715.

pdr
04-22-2008, 06:11 AM
links. I have copied them, for everyone to use, into the Resources by Era under Medical.

ColoradoGuy
04-22-2008, 06:34 AM
Roy Porter's Madness: A Brief History is worth looking at to get some perspective. He was a bit controversial, but he was one of those who brought history of medicine into the mainstream of historical writing.

Sarpedon
04-22-2008, 06:35 PM
If he's a crewman on a ship, they wouldn't care if he was depressed enough. He'd do his job, or he'd be flogged.

AZ_Dawn
04-23-2008, 03:08 AM
Thanks again, guys! This stuff's really helpful.


Roy Porter's Madness: A Brief History is worth looking at to get some perspective. He was a bit controversial, but he was one of those who brought history of medicine into the mainstream of historical writing.

How was he controversial? Did they think his medical knowledge or his history was faulty, or did it involve something like bigotry?