and in showing how valuable an element in the economy of life, individual and social, is the instinctive impulse toward enjoyment.—Saturday Review.
HAVING met from time to time with cases of brain-fag, and also actual insanity, arising from excessive mental work, I wish to direct attention to-day to this cause of disordered mind, not because it is so widespread a cause as many others, but because for this very reason it is in danger of being treated with indifference, whereas at the present moment I regard it as a serious evil, although comparatively restricted in its operation in consequence of the great mass of the people falling under opposite influences; still I fear that it is in schools and colleges as well as in the cottage of the laborer and manufacturer, among students as well as among those who delve and spin, that we must seek for the causes of mental disturbance if we wish to understand them thoroughly.
It would occupy too much time to detail the cases to which I refer; I must ask you to take them as "read." For my present purpose it is sufficient to say that they have taken the form of brain-fag, mental excitement, depression of spirits (sometimes suicide), epilepsy, and chorea. I have recently known a case of acute mania distinctly due to this cause, confinement in an asylum becoming necessary. Of suicidal melancholia I could cite some painful instances, and, as regards epilepsy, I could detail the history of some marked cases resulting from overwork; and I may state that, at the National Hospital for Epilepsy in London, pupil teachers have been admitted laboring under this disease, brought on by mental strain. Two medical officers, resident in the institution at different times, spontaneously drew my attention to the fact.
I fully admit that, in many instances of mischief from excess of study, this results from anxious worry as well. The subject "preys on the mind," as people say; but then it was the study of too large a number of subjects or of subjects beyond the power of the student to master within a given time which was to blame for this harass.
Here I wish to anticipate an objection which may be raised to my own observation and experience on this question. How is it—it may be fairly said—how is it that, if over-mental work is often to blame for attacks of insanity, there are not more statistics at hand to prove it? To this I would reply:
- Read in the Psychological Section at the Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association in Cork, August, 1879.