Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Insanity Contagious.


A Malady That May Be Acquired by Association With One Afflicted.

An interesting discussion upon the subject of communicated insanity was brought out at the meeting of the Association of Asylum Superintendents in 1887 by the reading of the history of the Pocassett letter carrier, Freeman, who, with the consent of his wife, who had become possessed of the same fanatical ideas, offered up their son as a sacrifice, in the manner of Abraham, says Dr. Pilgrim in The Popular Science Monthly.

The insanity of the mother was not detected at the time, but in a month she became manifestly insane. As will be seen, this case cannot be considered a typical one of communicated insanity, for the remorse and grief which necessarily followed the participation in her husband's fanatical act were sufficient to account for her insanity, aside from any influence which he might have had over her. The discussion, however, brought out the interesting fact that several of the superintendents present had had experience with cases which would appear to justify the use of the term "communicated insanity," although others objected to its adoption.

One particularly interesting instance was related by Dr. Fletcher of Indiana, where two brothers and a sister, living on a farm isolated from the rest of the community, became, one after the other, controlled by the same insane delusion. They were Germans, industrious and thrifty, but uneducated and superstitious. The elder brother conceived the idea that the devil had taken possession of their farm and was secreted under a certain bowlder in the barnyard. He imagined that no good crops could be raised until his satanic majesty had been unearthed. He began searching and worked for several days rolling up great bowlders, until the younger brother, and finally the sister also became possessed of the same idea also and lent their assistance.

They all worked for about six weeks, making an excavation about 20 feet square and 15 feet deep. They worked so hard and became so emaciated that the neighbors interfered and had them sent to an asylum, where, happily, under the influence of treatment, change of surroundings and good diet, they ultimately recovered.

No comments: