New History of Psychiatry: Melancholy, Madness, Chinese Psychiatry, Psychedelic Therapy, and More

The June 2020 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Full details follow below:

“Wild melancholy. On the historical plausibility of a black bile theory of blood madness, or hæmatomania,” Jan Verplaetse. Abstract:

Nineteenth-century art historian John Addington Symonds coined the term hæmatomania (blood madness) for the extremely bloodthirsty behaviour of a number of disturbed rulers like Ibrahim II of Ifriqiya (850–902) and Ezzelino da Romano (1194–1259). According to Symonds, this mental pathology was linked to melancholy and caused by an excess of black bile. I explore the historical credibility of this theory of ‘wild melancholy’, a type of melancholia that crucially deviates from the lethargic main type. I conclude that in its pure form Symonds’ black bile theory of hæmatomania was never a broadly supported perspective, but can be traced back to the nosology of the ninth-century physician Ishaq ibn Imran, who practised at the Aghlabid court, to which the sadistic Ibrahim II belonged.

“The madness of Princess Alice: Sigmund Freud, Ernst Simmel and Alice of Battenberg at Kurhaus Schloß Tegel,” Dany Nobus. Abstract:

During the winter of 1930, Princess Alice of Battenberg was admitted to Kurhaus Schloß Tegel, where she was diagnosed with schizophrenic paranoia. When Freud was consulted about her case by Ernst Simmel, the Sanatorium’s Director, he recommended that the patient’s ovaries be exposed to high-intensity X-rays. Freud’s suggestion was not based on any psychoanalytic treatment principles, but rooted in a rejuvenation technique to which Freud himself had subscribed. In recommending that psychotic patients should be treated with physical interventions, Freud confirmed his conviction that the clinical applicability of psychoanalysis should not be extrapolated beyond the neuroses, yet he also asserted that a proper consideration of endocrinological factors in the aetiology and treatment of the psychoses should never be excluded.

“Psychiatric wards of Soochow Elizabeth Blake Hospital (1898–1937): a missing piece in the history of modern Chinese psychiatry,” Tingwei Fan, Qing Hu, Ming Liu. Abstract:

The history of modern psychiatry in China began at the end of the nineteenth century, as a result of the work of missionaries. Soochow was one of the first cities to establish a hospital for the treatment of mental patients, but historians knew little about it. It provided a valuable service from 1898 to 1937. In the 1930s, there were 200 beds in the psychiatry and neurology section, making it the most influential psychiatric hospital in East China. After Soochow was occupied by the Japanese army in 1937, the hospital was destroyed and shut down.

“The fate of Jews hospitalized in mental hospitals in France during World War II,” Yoram Mouchenik, Véronique Fau-Vincenti. Abstract:

The fate of Jewish psychiatric patients in occupied Europe during World War II is inseparable from the fate of the disabled and mentally ill, as planned by the Nazi regime. But Jews found themselves at the confluence of eugenics, Christian anti-Judaism and Nazi racist and anti-Semitic madness. They faced the twin promise of death – both as Jews and as mentally ill. They did not escape from the euthanasia programme and, if by a miracle they survived, they disappeared into the extermination camps. The modalities of annihilation of Jewish psychiatric patients are inseparable from the forms of German occupation, which differed from country to country. In this research we focus initially on various countries in occupied Europe, and then on France.

“Alexander Frese and the establishment of psychiatry in the Russian Empire,” Ruslan Mitrofanov. Abstract:

Previous historiography has already paid particular attention to well-known ‘metropolitan’ biographies of I. Balinsky, V. Bekhterev and others, as well as their role in the establishment of a scientific approach in the treatment of mental illnesses in the Russian Empire. Little attention has been paid to ‘provincial’ physicians and the importance of their scientific activity in bridging the gap between the Russian and European institutions of psychiatry. The primary aim of this article is to show how Alexander Frese’s ‘mobile’ and ‘imperial’ career influenced the emergence of the transnational origins of Russian psychiatry. It describes his travels to foreign psychiatric hospitals, and his subsequent critical assessment of them. I argue that his ideas, which had been formulated during these trips, determined the design of emerging psychiatric institutions (district hospitals) in the Russian Empire.

“History of the opposition between psychogenesis and organogenesis in classic psychiatry: Part 1,” Yorgos Dimitriadis. Abstract:

The question of causation in psychiatry is one of the oldest and most difficult in this field. This paper is the first of two published in this journal. First, it traces the development of psychogenic and organogenic views of mental disorders from Pinel until the early twentieth century. This includes the debate as to how a disturbance of function might create a lesion even without a visible pathological trace. The second part of the paper discusses in detail the controversy between functional and organic causes of mental disease. These concepts evolved taking into account psychological factors and also the response of the uninjured parts of the nervous system to trauma of various kinds.

“A dangerous method? Psychedelic therapy at Modum Bad, Norway, 1961–76,” by Petter Grahl Johnstad. Abstract:

After many years of disregard, the use of psychedelic drugs in psychiatric treatment has re-emerged in recent years. The prospect that psychedelics may again be integrated into mainstream psychiatry has aroused interest in long-forgotten research and experience from the previous phase of psychedelic therapy, which lasted from the late 1940s to the 1970s. This article will discuss one large-scale psychedelic therapy programme at Modum Bad Nervesanatorium, a psychiatric clinic which treated 379 inpatients with psychedelic drugs during the years 1961–76. The psychiatrists there initially regarded the psychedelic treatment as efficacious and without serious negative reactions, but reports of long-term harm have since surfaced. This article discusses how insights from Modum Bad might benefit the new generation of psychedelic treatment efforts.

“The nature of love: Harlow, Bowlby and Bettelheim on affectionless mothers,” Lenny van Rosmalen, René van der Veer, Frank CP van der Horst. Abstract:

Harry Harlow, famous for his experiments with rhesus monkeys and cloth and wire mothers, was visited by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby and by child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in 1958. They made similar observations of Harlow’s monkeys, yet their interpretations were strikingly different. Bettelheim saw Harlow’s wire mother as a perfect example of the ‘refrigerator mother’, causing autism in her child, while Bowlby saw Harlow’s results as an explanation of how socio-emotional development was dependent on responsiveness of the mother to the child’s biological needs. Bettelheim’s solution was to remove the mother, while Bowlby specifically wanted to involve her in treatment. Harlow was very critical of Bettelheim, but evaluated Bowlby’s work positively.

“Vinegar and weight loss in women of eighteenth-century France: a lesson from the past,” Carlos A Almenara, Annie Aimé, Christophe Maïano. Abstract:

This short note reports the eighteenth-century account of Mademoiselle Lapaneterie, a French woman who started drinking vinegar to lose weight and died one month later. The case, which was first published by Pierre Desault in 1733, has not yet been reported by present-day behavioural scholars. Similar reports about cases in 1776 are also presented, confirming that some women were using vinegar for weight loss. Those cases can be conceived as a lesson from the past for contemporary policies against the deceptive marketing of potentially hazardous weight-loss products.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.