Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/82

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turning with returning health. Persons of strongest mind in health are often delirious for a short time before death. Since, then, the idiot in the same stage of approaching dissolution may become intelligent, while the insane may become sane under the conditions which make the sane become delirious, we recognize a relationship between the mental and bodily states which might be of considerable use in the treatment of mental diseases. It may well be that conditions of the nervous system which are to be avoided by persons of normal mental qualities may be advantageously superinduced in the case of those of abnormally weak or abnormally violent mind. It is noteworthy that different conditions would seem to be necessary for the idiotic and for the insane, if the cases cited sufficed to afford basis for generalization. For the idiot of Miss Martineau's story became intelligent during the intense depression of the bodily powers immediately preceding dissolution, whereas the insane person became sane during that height of fever when delirium commonly makes its appearance.

Sir H. Holland mentions a case which shows how great bodily depression may affect a person of ordinarily clear and powerful mind. "I descended on one and the same day," he says, "two very deep mines in the Hartz Mountains, remaining some hours underground in each. While in the second mine, and exhausted both from fatigue and inanition, I felt the utter impossibility of talking longer with the German inspector who accompanied me. Every German word and phrase deserted my recollection; and it was not until I had taken food and wine, and been some time at rest, that I regained them again."

A change in the mental condition is sometimes a sign of approaching serious illness, and is felt to be so by the person experiencing it. An American writer, Mr. Butterworth, quotes the following description given by a near relative of his who was suffering from extreme nervous debility: "I am in constant fear of insanity," she said, "and I wish I could be moved to some retreat for the insane. I understand my condition perfectly; my reason does not seem to be impaired; but I can think of two things at the same time. This is an indication of mental unsoundness, and is a terror to me. I do not seem to have slept at all for the last six months. If I sleep, it must be in a succession of vivid dreams that destroy all impression of somnolence. Since I have been in this condition, I seem to have a very vivid impression of what happens to my children who are away from home, and I am often startled to hear that these impressions are correct. I seem to have also a certain power of anticipating what one is about to say, and to read the motives of others. I take no pleasure in this strange increase of mental power; it is all unnatural. I can not live in this state long, and I often wish I were dead."

It must, however, be remembered that persons who are in a state of extreme nervous debility not only possess at times abnormal mental qualities, but are also affected morally. As Huxley has well remarked