Ancient Shock Treatments for the Mentally Ill

Celsus, On Medicine, 3.21-23

“If [the patient] is sick with an insane mind, he should be treated well with certain torments. When he does or says anything troubling, he must be corrected with starvation, chains, and beating. He must be forced to pay attention, to learn something, and to keep it in his memory. He will change in this way so that he will be compelled bit by bit by fear to think about what he is doing.

Sudden fear and complete horror is a good for this sickness and so is anything else which troubles the spirit intensely. For a certain change may happen when the mind is in a different state from where it usually is. For insane hilarity is better treated by the frightening I just described. Excessive sadness, however, needs light and long-lasting massage twice a day along with cold water poured over the head and immersing the body in water and oil.

Here are some common treatments: insane people should exercise vigorously, be given lengthy massages, and then fed neither fat nor wine. Once they are purged of what they at before, they should have food of medium weight. You should not leave them alone or with people they don’t know or those they hate or ignore. It is best if they get a change of scenery and if their minds improve, they need to be shaken up with an annual trip.”

Si vero consilium insanientem fallit, tormentis quibusdam optime curatur. Ubi perperam aliquid dixit aut fecit, fame, vinculis, plagis coercendus est. Cogendus est et attendere et ediscere aliquid et meminisse: sic enim fiet, ut paulatim metu cogatur considerare quid faciat. Subito etiam terreri et expavescere in hoc morbo prodest, et fere quicquid animum vehementer turbat. Potest enim quaedam fieri mutatio, cum ab eo statu mens, in quo fuerat, abducta est. Interest etiam, ipse sine causa subinde rideat, an maestus demissusque sit: nam demens hilaritas terroribus iis, de quibus supra (§ 21) dixi, melius curatur. Si nimia tristitia, prodest lenis sed multa bis die frictio, item per caput aqua frigida infusa, demissumque corpus in aquam et oleum. Illa communia sunt, insanientes vehementer exerceri debere, multa frictione uti, neque pinguem carnem neque vinum adsumere; cibis uti post purgationem ex media materia quam levissimis; non oportere esse vel solos vel inter ignotos, vel inter eos, quos aut contemnant aut neglegant; mutare debere regiones et, si mens redit, annua peregrinatione esse iactandos.

Image result for medieval manuscript torture devices
Medieval Breaking Wheel

One thought on “Ancient Shock Treatments for the Mentally Ill

  1. Pingback: Know-nothings, Faith-healers, and Quacks: Mystifying and Abusing Mental Illness – SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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