Pharaoh to Freud
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Pharaoh to Freud

                      Some four thousand years ago, the ancient Egyptians did not differentiate between mental and physical illnesses; they believed that despite their manifestations, all diseases had physical causes. They thought the heart was responsible for mental symptoms. Hippocrates and the early Greeks believed as well that all illness resulted from a biological malfunction; in the case of depression, from an excess of"black bile."

The ancients may have been off the.mark as to specific causes, but their non pejorative view of mental suffering and their search for medical causes were right on track. 

As history progressed, however, the "mind" view of mental illness came to predominate, and with it the conviction that the victim was to blame. Possession by evil spirits, moral weakness, and other such "explanations" made a stigma of mental illness and placed the responsibility for a cure on the resulting outcasts themselves. The most apparently ill were chained to walls in institutions such as the infamous Bedlam, where the rest of society could forget they existed.

     In our Supposedly more humane era, we have freed the mentally ill from institutions and, instead of providing Continuing care, have left them to fend for themselves. Forced to be aware of them, we disdain the crazies out there and wish they would get it together and behave themselves; down deep, we really believe that if they had the strength of character, they would straighten out.

The stigma of illness of the mind is all-pervasive. If we or members of our families experience menial illness, the shame may prevent us from seeking available help or even from following the doctor's advice. Physicians often fail at effecting a cure because patients resist taking the prescribed medication.

         Ancient Views of Depression

                     Causation                     Treatment
Early Egypt Loss of Status or Money Talking it Out
Suicide is accepted
Job/Old Testament Despair,  Cognition   Faith
Homer Gods take mind away  
Aeschylus Demons Exorcism
Socrates Heaven - sent
Not shameful
A Blessing
Aristotle Melancholia Music
Hippocrates Melancholia
Medical Causes
Abstinence excesses
Vegetable Diet
Celsus A Form of Madness Entertaining Stories
Persuasion Therapy
Galen Psychic functions of the brain affected Confrontation

                              MARK S. GOLD  M.D.



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