history of Mental Illness


Neolithic era

20000 BCE

trepanation has been used to “cure” mental illness. Thousands of years ago, having no knowledge of things like brain chemistry, ancient doctors (a loose definition, for lack of a better term) believed that the mentally ill were possessed by demons hanging around in our heads. What better way to rid us of the demons than by giving them a way out? And so, holes were drilled into the skulls of the patients so that the spirits could escape.

Hysteria therapy

3000 BC

Hysteria was diagnosed for anything from nervousness to fainting to simply not talking enough.patients were required to inhale foul-smelling substances that would drive away the uterus from wherever it was kicking up a storm in the body. Of course, the real cure for female mental illness was to get the uterus settled in doing what it was there for. Women needed to get married and start having babies.


460 BC

First physician to base treatment on the belief that has a strong healing force. Proper diet, exercise, and personal hygiene were his mainstay of treatment. viewed mental illness as a result of an imbalance of humors. (humoral theory of disease


427 BC - 347 BC

Greek philosopher, life was a dynamic balance maintained by the soul. according to Plato a "ration soul" resided in the head and an "irrational soul" was found in the heart and abdomen. he believed that if the rational was unable to control the undirected parts irrational soul, mental illness resulted.

Middle Ages AKA Dark ages

500 AD - 1100 AD

Was believed that disease was either punishment for sins, possession by the devil, or the result of witchcart. To "cure" mental illness priest performed demonical exorcisms

First insitution for the mentally ill


the first english institution for mentally ill people was initially a hospice founded in 1247 by the sheriff of London.



Bethlehem hospital had developed into a lunatic asylum that was infamous for its brutal treatments. the were treated harshly like burning at the stake.

witch hunting

Approx. 1487

few safe heaven for people with mental illness. many though women were carriers of the devil.The textbook The Witches Hammer was a pornography and psychopathology. A "textbook of the Inquisition" that resulted in many women and children and any mentally ill people to be tortured and burned.


Approx. 1700 - Approx. 1800

like the oceans tides, as the bodily fluids were being acted on by the moon’s gravity. The solution was to counteract the gravity with another force: magnets. By placing magnets on various parts of the body, Mesmer felt the bodily fluids were redistributed and mental equilibrium was restored. Although many of Mesmer’s patients claimed the therapy cured them, medical authorities dismissed mesmerism as ineffective, and positive outcomes were chalked up to the placebo effect.

fever therapy

1800 - 1809

infected a syphilis patient with malaria and the resulting fever cured the patient of the psychosis caused by his syphilis. Other diseases have been used to trigger brief fevers for the treatment of mental illness

Rotational therapy

1809 - 1882

Charles Darwin believed that disease could be cured by sleep. And he believed that spinning the patient around very fast induced sleep. believed that mental illness was caused by brain congestion, and that spinning would reduce the congestion and cure the mental disorder. We can safely assume that dizziness was the main result of his therapy, not cure.



patients wrapped like mummies in towels soaked in ice water. Another “cure” took the relaxing bath to scary extremes, strapping and restraining patients in the tub for sometimes days at a time, allowing escape only for bathroom breaks. High-pressure water jets were also used, and in at least one instance a patient was bound in a crucifix position and a fire hose was turned on him.

Insulin-coma therapy


Viennese doctor Manfred Sakel developed insulin-coma therapy in 1927. Apparently not a particularly careful doctor, he accidently gave one of his patients an insulin overdose, resulting in her falling into a coma. The patient, who was a morphine addict, awoke from her coma and discovered that her addiction had disappeared. Sakel, being the bad doctor he was, made the same mistake with another patient who also awoke addiction-free. Sensing a trend, Sakel began intentionally inducing insulin comas to schizophrenics and other patients, and 90% of them reportedly were cured. It is unknown why or even if these claims were true, but thankfully the insulin-coma therapy eventually faded away by the 1960s. A good thing, since it was a dangerous therapy and 2% of the patients weren’t cured, they died.

Chemically induced seizures

1930 - 1939

A pathologist named Ladislas von Meduna observed that, following seizures, epileptics appeared calm and even happy. From this he deduced that by inducing seizures in schizophrenics he could calm their symptoms and even perhaps cure them. After experimenting with drugs like strychnine and absinthe, he settled on a drug called metrazol, which stimulated the circulatory and respiratory systems and caused seizures. but some side effects were memory loss and fractured bones were not exactly minor



The lobotomy was developed by a Portuguese neurosurgeon named Egas Moniz. He had heard that when the frontal lobe of a violent, feces-throwing monkey was cut away, the monkey became docile and quit slinging the shit. From this, he theorized that the frontal lobe was the hotbed of mental illness and by cutting it he could cure mental illness. And so he tried it on his human patients. By his own standards, the surgeries were a success, and lobotomies caught on. In 1949, Moniz even received the Nobel Prize for his efforts.