10 Weird Ways of Curing Psychological Problems in History

10 Weird Ways of Curing Psychological Problems in History

. 9 min read

Having problems with your mind is not enjoyable. Seeing things that are not there, hearing voices that you don’t know the source of; as a normal person, these things happening to you probably will freak you out. In fact, it is downright deadly outside of civilization. Not knowing if the sabertooth tiger is just a figment of your imagination or not will lead to a very, very bad day. With the coming of society to protect us from the wilderness, it became survivable – at the cost of making the lives of people around the person miserable. There were no welfare benefits back then, and caring of the sick and the poor only came into being with the creation of the Christian Orders in the Middle Ages. And that was only in Europe. In some areas, such people were considered having “divine trances”; while others were considered to be possessed by the Devil. Such people were either venerated and protected, or ridiculed and shunned. And with the Spanish Inquisition and witch hunts of Europe and the Americas, we will not fully know the extent of such disorders. The advent of modern medicine gave them a leg up; these people considered to be sick and in need of expert help. How “expert” was the help given them, find out by reading below.

10. Lobotomy


This treatment involves losing part of your brain, literally. No zombies took part in the procedure, but this might leave you with a zombie-like demeanor afterwards. The surgeons cut out a part of your brain, usually the frontal lobe. This will affect your emotions, decision-making, spontaneity and self-control. Uncontrollable behavior? Cut him up and rip his brains out! This indiscriminate application of this treatment earned it widespread condemnation and notoriety. Especially when one of its promoters, a physician with no formal surgery training (he learned all on the job) invented the “ice pick through the eye socket” method. You stab a surgical tool through the corner of the eye socket, penetrate the skull, and wiggle it around like an eggbeater. Brain slurpee for the zombies. He went around America in a van where he operates ,offering his services for as low as $25. If he lived during the Zombie Apocalypse, he’d be a rich man. Fun Fact: one of its pioneers earned a Nobel Prize for the Lobotomy surgery itself.

9. Phrenology


Now this is not much of a treatment but rather a diagnostic procedure. Considered as the precursor to brain mapping, Phrenology considers the brain as being a group of organs, each responsible for a single behavior. If you are predisposed to a certain behavior, your head would surely show it; usually in the form on an enlargement or a lump on your skull. By observing and feeling over your skull, a phrenologist can discover things about your personality, just like a cold-reader does nowadays. Of course, this practice is now considered to be pseudoscience, but back then it was a big thing. Victorian England actively supported this practice. But such a method of determining one’s personality can lead itself to ugly self-service. This practice became the support of the myth of European superiority. The heads of others races weren’t developed enough in comparison to the Westerners, so its proponents said. We must be thankful of two things though: one, the propagators of this movement were such gentlemen that they promoted to train and build up the other races to European standards; and two, this movement did not reach the time of epic proportions of racial discrimination in early 20th century.

8. Hysteria Therapy

8-Hysteria Therapy

It is often said that one of the great mysteries plaguing men is understanding women. And in the olden times, when women were treated as second-class citizens, a woman’s mental illness is conveniently lumped into the term ‘Hysteria’. The originator of the practice? The father of medicine: Hippocrates. Never let it be said that men can’t be such insensitive and lazy bastards. One of the primary sources of a woman’s problem back then was sexual satisfaction. Having such a basic need unfulfilled led to a wide host of problems which physicians at that time weren’t keen to investigate further. They only knew one thing: the uterus/womb needs sexual fulfillment. And to solve that they resorted to two options: give the women what they need (through artificial means; i.e. dildoes) or remove the source of the problem altogether, which means removing the womb by surgical means. Only when the forerunners of modern psychiatry (Sigmund Freud and others) came into picture that the specific problems lumped within ‘Hysteria’ came be be addressed individually.

7. Chemically Induced Seizures


If you are having a seizure, that means your nerve cells are activating erratically. And your brain is full of nerve cells. That means having a seizure changes how your brain works. This was the logic neurologist Ladislas Meduna came upon when treating schizophrenic patients. Just like the relationship of cowpox and smallpox (if you get cowpox you are immune to smallpox), Meduna observed that epileptic patients have low incidences of schizophrenic symptoms, and those with schizophrenia were apparently relieved of their symptoms after having seizures from getting sick or hurt. He then set to find out how to induce seizures. He found out that camphor (one of the ingredients used in muscle pain liniments) when injected in somebody’s muscle, causes seizures effectively. His first trials were on catatonic people. It was a success – of course, when a person is having a seizure he’s not so catatonic anymore, does he? Building upon that success, others found out that electricity works as well but without the scary needles and stuff. Using chemicals was then shelved and treatment using electricity contributed to the old public perception that you will be electro-shocked he you have the ‘crazies’.

6. Malaria Therapy


“Kill poison with poison” as the old saying goes. And in the case of dementia and paralysis due to late stage syphilis (where you are going to die if you reach the next stage), using bacteria to induce fevers was the solution used back then. Have you ever heard of Pasteurization? Or why do we need to boil water to make it safe to drink? It’s now a known fact that heat kills bacteria. And that’s what they aimed for using this treatment. Short of burning the patient at the stake or boiling him in a cauldron, to increase the body temperature enough to kill bacteria a fever must happen. And one of the worst fevers to afflict mankind is malaria. By controlling the progress of the fever using antimalarial drugs (quinine), the bacteria is cooked off while making sure the patient stays alive. But in some cases the patient burns up and dies; it was still considered acceptable though. There were no antibiotics back then and to have syphilis was a sure death sentence. Taking a chance with malarial fever which can be cured afterwards was a better proposition.

5. Mesmerism


This therapy still lives on into the modern age in two ways: hypnotism (and its variants and successors) and magnet therapy (in alternative/New Age therapy). Its founder, Franz Mesmer, first believed that gravitational forces of heavenly bodies (and by extension, magnetism) affected the functioning of the human body. He then used magnets in therapy to induce bodily changes. As his methods evolved and become refined, he came to believe that it was not the magnets that were doing the work, it was something he called “animal magnetism”, a substance present in living beings. Skeptics and critics converged on him for that claim, the latter afraid of ceding voluntary control of their will. The skeptics, on the other hand, were wondering if such a substance really exists. It took one of his disciples to debunk that claim and clarify that it was the patient’s mind, not magnetism, that was the source of the desired changes. This was the start of the science of hypnotism, to be used for psychotherapy.

4. Hydrotherapy


Now there are some treatments that are real effective in giving benefits. But when it is abused, or given a much larger importance than what is real, that’s when we will have problems. Cold water baths in chilly weather, cleaning the colon (large intestine) with water, even drinking water as a health practice are all acceptable in moderation. Problem is, humans tend to think that if some is good then more must be better.. Because of that, some therapists used it for their treatments in shocking ways(literally). A surprise dunk into an ice-cold bath, continuous water exposure for 48 hours, and even a form of water-boarding was used to control behavior (in the form of a punishment). Even worse when it was promoted as a panacea. Testimonials saying that water cures gout, arthritis and other ailments pushed Hydrotherapy into the big stage. What they didn’t notice is that every one who dies has drank water. Such spontaneous healing should be attributed to other factors, not something as common as water.

3. Rotational Therapy


When you are trying for the astronaut tryouts, you’ll probably experience a version of this. But when this is used on non-volunteers, thing get real messy. Proposed by none other than Charles Darwin’s (of the Evolution Theory and Darwin Awards fame) dad, Erasmus, this treatment is used as blood flow control and behavioral control (as in, I’ll stop spinning you if you promise not to do that again). It was theorized that behavioral changes happen to the disruption of blood flow to the head, thus curing the patient. Many other therapists supported or found the theory to be feasible, including the Father of American Psychiatry, Benjamin Rush. Rush himself campaigned in 1792 for keeping patients in more humane conditions. Talk about ironic. This treatment was also used to induce sleep in insomniacs, often at the cost of vomit and fecal splatter. This might be the origin of the term “sh– (fecal matter) hits the fan (something rotating)” meaning when that happens it’ll be such a mess and everyone will be involved.

2. Trepanation


This therapy is as old as man and is still is use in come cases today, namely certain cases of hematoma or brain swelling. It involves making a hole in the skull (and no, bullets are not used. If they are, they are sh–ting you; better find another doctor). The basic theory is bore a hole in the skull to drain the bad (demons, humours, fluids, blood; take your pick) out. With the absence of modern antiseptic techniques it is surprising that there are many specimens of successful trepanation. Skulls found show signs of healing after undergoing the procedure. In modern medicine, it is often used with a shunt: a pathway redirecting the flow of fluids. Again, “taken to the excess” rears its ugly head: some people claim additional health benefits when one undergoes trepanation, often done without proper medical supervision and training.

1. Insulin Coma Therapy

1-Insulin Coma Therapy

It has been written before (see above) that seizures happen when nerve cells activate erratically. And one of the possible causes is when the brain is starved of food. Now insulin works like a straw or a cup that is used to hold food (i.e. blood sugar). Without it, cells can’t eat. And when everyone is given a cup, all goes into binge-eating. When there is no more food, that’s when cells begin to starve. And starved nerve cells activate erratically until it shuts down, making the person go into a state known as a coma. This state is what the therapists were aiming for. This was the same result that Chemical- Induced Seizures therapy want, but this goes way further. When a cell is starved, first it malfunctions, then it shuts down (as a preventive measure). When starvation is prolonged, cells die. And the hungriest cells in the human body are brain cells and muscle cells (those include heart cells). Now try starving those kinds of cells without adverse effects. There had been casualties resulting from this therapy. It was abandoned for the much safer (but no less graphic) Electro-shock therapy.