Common Treatments

Various Treatments for the Mentally Ill in the Renaissance:

  • Converting humors into vapors following the idea of balancing the amount of black bile in a person (de Chavez, 2009)
  • Confinement (Dickinson, 1990)
  • Special diets (Grob, 1985)
  • Interpretation of dreams (Mora, 1992)
  • Incubation in holy temples (Mora, 1992)
  • Pastoral counseling (Mora, 1992)
  • Bodily punishments and harm  (de Chavez, 2009)
  • Physical tortures, such as cold baths  (de Chavez, 2009; Dickinson, 1990; Grob, 1985)
  • Instilling terror and horror, such as holding one’s head under the water until they came close to drowning in order to suffocate their crazy ideas  (de Chavez, 2009)
  • Exhaustion through various tasks such as placing them on rotating machines and wheels  (de Chavez, 2009; Dickinson, 1990)
  • Use of Tranquillisers: A chair that was used to physically restrain a patient to the point of chaining their limbs and placing a hood over their heads in order to prevent movement (Dickinson, 1990)
  • Facial masks in order to silence them  (de Chavez, 2009)
  • Electric Shocks  (de Chavez, 2009; Dickinson, 1990)
  • Blood transfusions with animals in order to renew the humors  (de Chavez, 2009)
  • Rubbing the body with rough ointments  (de Chavez, 2009)
  • Incisions in the head to allow the evil spirit to escape  (de Chavez, 2009)
  • Immobilizing devices (Dickinson, 1990)
  • Use of narcotics: Opium, Laudanum and Morphia (sleeping), laxatives, saline (emetics), various tonics (Dickinson, 1990; Grob, 1985).

A modern-day version of an electrical shock machine that was used in China.

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de Chavez, M. G. (2009).  Treatment of psychoses before the twentieth century. In Y. O. Alanen, G. dC. Manual, A. S. Silber, & B. Martindale (Eds.)  Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Schizophrenia Psychoses: Past, Present, and Future, (pp. 10-22).  New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.

Dickinson, E. (1990). From madness to mental health: A brief history of psychiatric treatments in the UK from 1800 to the present. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53, 419-424.

Grob, G. N. (1985). The transformation of the mental hospital in the United States. American Behavioral Scientist, 28, 639-654.

Mora, G. (1992). Stigma during the medieval and Renaissance periods. In P. J. Fink & A. Tasman (Eds.) Stigma and mental illness, (pp. 41-57). Washington, D.C., US: American Psychiatric Association.

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