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Psychiatry in the middle ages 82 During medieval times different terms were People were also convinced that mental disease could used to describe mental illness. This was due be cured. In addition to various magical remedies, to the prevailing notions about the nature and doctors used traditional bleeding and purging. cause of aberrant behaviour. Terms like insenatus They treated the sick in collaboration with priests, (the frenzied), insipiens (fool), idiotus, garrulus exorcists, barber-surgeons, quacks and wardens. If (chatterbox), baburrus (confused), stolidus (insolent), it turned out that the disease was untreatable, the fatuus (scornful), rabieticus (raging), maniacus, priest and the doctor stepped back. All that remained furiosus, demoniacus (possessed), fanaticus were folk medicine and the cult around the saints. (driven by powers), lunaticus (moonstruck) and There were centres everywhere where the insane, melancholicus were used. Insanity was characterised epileptics and fools could go on a pilgrimage. by aberrant behaviour, mental derangement and Mentally ill people were commonly looked after uninhibited conduct. These characteristics mostly in their families, but many were vagrants. Family correspond with what today is called psychosis. Apart and friends remained involved with the patient, from insanity, three other mental diseases were but patients were not hidden away. Care was also known: frenesis (insanity with fever), epilepsy and entrusted to convents and hospitals, especially in rabies. the towns (caritas), although there it was limited to townspeople. Mentally ill people were accepted People in the middle ages believed in miracles. by society as long as they posed no danger. If they Hence not only doctors but also non-medical people did, they were put away in prison. As a result dealt with mental disorders. Religion, wizardry and prisons were populated by people from all kinds of science went hand in hand. The treatment of mental backgrounds. disorders included invocations, pilgrimages, herbal medicines and vegetable extracts, punishment, and incarceration. The medieval doctor subscribed to the theory that mental illness had a physical cause, although in practice he also considered psychological origins. The basic assumption was that there was an organic cause, but the doctor did not have to prove this. Not the mind, but the body was sick. The mind, the soul, could not be affected by disease but it could be afflicted by physical influences and causes. Sickness of the body, of one or several organs, caused deviant behaviour. In medical terminology: there were only exogenous psychoses. Hysteria was looked upon as a disease of the hystera (Greek for uterus). It took until the seventeenth century before insanity came to be regarded as a disease in its own right.


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