THE, common names of this disease are low spirits, spleen, vapors, hypo, and the blues. It produces constant fear, anxiety, and gloom. Business, pleasures, the acquisition of knowledge, and all the useful pursuits of life, become insipid, tasteless, and even irksome to the hypochondriac. His mind is full of the belief that something dreadful is about to befall him. He is either going to be sick, or to die, or lose his property or friends. He has no mind to engage in any business, nor does he wish to go anywhere, or to see anybody. Night and day his spirits are down to zero, and his heart has a load too heavy to bear. He is wholly occupied with his troubles and his feelings. He thinks he has various diseases, and wears out his friends by talking of his sufferings. He feels of his pulse often, looks at big tongue in a glass, and several times a day ask a friend if he does not look pale or sick.
The external senses manifest symptoms of derangement as well as the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and passions. There are roarings in the ears, like a waterfall, or the noise of a distant carriage. Floating black specks, or bright sparks, are seen before the eyes. These indicate a slight fullness of the blood vessels, and perhaps, in some instances, sparks of electricity passing to or from the eye, and are in no proper sense subjects for the alarm they cause. At one time the person will feel as large as a barrel, at other times not larger than a whip stock; the head will feel light or heavy, large or small. The skin will twitch in different parts, or feel numb, or have the sensation of spiders crawling on it. The smell and taste become perverted; the hypochondria will smell odors and flavors, at times, where there are none.
These errors of the senses are all owing to some slight disorder of the organs of sense; and they are no more wonderful than that the mind should perceive personal danger, poverty, and death itself, when none of these things are impending.
These persons are subject to fainting turns, when the breathing will appear to stop, the body become cold, the face pale; there will be distress in the region of the heart, which will apparently stop beating, and the person will feel as if dying. At the same time the mind will remain clear. These nervous spells are alarming, but pass off without danger.
These persons become changed in their moral dispositions. They are jealous, take a joke as an affront, and feel the greatest distress at any apparent lack of attention or neglect on the part of friends. They put the worst construction upon the actions of friends. They are irritable, fretful, peevish, and fickle.
The complaint is distressing, but does not appear to shorten human life.
The seat of the disease is in the brain and nerves. It is caused by anxiety, care, disappointment, working the brain too bard, diseases of the liver and stomach, costiveness, sedentary habits, excessive venereal indulgence, and masturbation.
Treatment. This disease is more easily prevented than cured. It would be almost entirely prevented in this country if in childhood we were all taught to be contented with humble competence, to love active labor, and to think it honorable, instead of struggling after wealth, and falling into unhappiness when it does not come.
Remedies. Of all the remedies for this complaint, that which is most important is active employment out of doors. The human body was made for motion. Without it the blood cannot be distributed to the several organs. The senses, the eye, the ear, the touch, should be much in communion with nature. In this way they are strengthened. Nature is their great physician. Man is a creature of sensation; and if too much occupied with feelings, thoughts, and deep reflections, the nerves will be irritated, and begin to give deceptive sensations. A very nervous man should fly to some active occupation, if he would be rid of suffering.
The open, fresh air is very important to restore the system to soundness.
Temperance, both in eating and drinking, will do much for this class of patients, yet they are the very persons who eat largely, and they often fly to the excessive use of stimulants to drive away their sorrow. By so doing, they aggravate the disease.
Amusements are very important for hypochondriacs. Lively company, cheerful and witty conversation, with mirth and laughter, lively songs and instrumental music, are all desirable; and so are gunning, fishing, riding, billard playing, and traveling.
Never allow these patients to be alone, and to have time to brood over their misery. See that they go early to bed, and rise betimes in the morning. The warm bath, the cold shower, or sponge bath, with brisk friction, are not on any account to be omitted. The diet should be light, nutritious, and generous; but fats, acids, liquors, and coffee, must be forbidden.
But little medicine will be required. If there be costiveness, let cracked wheat be eaten; if this does not answer, a little rhubarb and bicarbonate of potassa (35), or leptandrin, podophyllin, etc. (36), may be given as required by the symptoms. A teaspoonful of calcined magnesia once a day , or the infusion of thoroughwort, drank y cold, will often answer an excellent purpose. A bowl of warm motherwort tea, with a teaspoonful of spirits of camphor in it will do well in fits of fainting when there is a sensation of dying. A teaspoonful of sulphuric ether maybe given at the same time. If there be debility, tonics are sometimes useful (50), (49), (64), (55).
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