Treatment Therapies

Treatment Therapies

  • Sakel (1930s): Insulin therapy was used to produce hypoglycemia and deep commas in order to treat diabetes.  The treatment was incredibly expensive and extremely dangerous- so much so that he only had the best nurses working with the patients (Dickinson, 1990; Fay et al., 1955).
  • Dr. Medura: Use of cardiozol (a soluble comphor) in order to treat schizophrenia and epilepsy as he believed that the two illnesses could not co-exist (Dickinson, 1990).
  • Ugo Cerletti (1938): Applied electrodes to the head and administered a shock in order to try and treat patients with schizophrenia in a procedure called electroconvulsive therapy. Later work proved this method to be both safe and highly effective in treating mood disorders and individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia (American Psychiatric Association, 1999). His idea for the treatment originally came from a slaughterhouse (Dickinson, 1990).
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy: One of the most controversial working treatments for mental illnesses.

    Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): Became very popular during WWII.  No one knows why ECT works in treating certain mental illnesses and it is currently one of the most debated cures.  Eventually patients were given short-acting anesthetics in order to relax the body to prepare for the shock (Dickinson, 1990; Fay et al., 1955).

  • Lithium has often been used to treat psychotic excitement, and it still used to this date.  However, doctors have to be careful with prescription amount because it becomes poisonous if too much is ingested (Dickinson, 1990).
  • Epinephrine (ephedrine): used to stimulate the sympathetic system, increasing heart rate and raising blood pressure.  Belladonna was used as the antagonist (Fay et al., 1955).
  • Potassium bromide elixir and other solutions including potassium or sodium bromide were used for short periods of sedation.  In order to sedate a patient for longer, phenobarbital was the medication of choice as it was the least harmful (Fay et al., 1955).
  • Hydrotherapy, including: the prolonged neutral bath, Nauheim baths, the neutral wet-sheet pack, the needle spray, the Scotch douche, the slap sheet, and the salt grow, were used because of their impact on the blood-vascular circulation and produced sedation or stimulation depending on the hydrotherapy chosen (Fay et al., 1955).
  • General relaxing therapies: most similar to attending a spa for the day in modern

    Day spas are still common today in order to provide complete body relaxation.

    times.  These relaxing therapies were not limited to hospitals, but were open to the public in hotels, health clubs, and bath houses.  The patient experienced steam rooms, baths, hot showers, massages, and ultraviolet-ray therapies, finishing with an alcohol rub-down of the body (Fay et al., 1955).


American Psychiatric Association. (1999). Images in psychiatry. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 630.

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.

Fay, T., Hadden, S. B., Langdon, R. L., Mallin, A. W., Nodine, J. H., Wilson, W. W., Winkelman, N. W., Winlock, R. M. (1955). General treatment measures, psychotherapeutic measures, and the drastic therapies. In D. J. McCarthy & K. M. Corrin (Eds.) Medical Treatment of Mental Disease, (pp. 491-604). Philadelphia, PA, US: J. B. Lippincott Company.

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13 Responses to “Treatment Therapies”

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  10. joanne says:

    I am writing a story about my great grandmother who became ill with senile dementa sometime in the late 1920. She was placed in the Massillon State Asylum in Ohio where she was beaten to death by someone, staff or another patient? I was told that in some cases the only medicine they could use at that time was thyroxine which is for hypothyroidism, how would it have been used on the mentally ill? Thanks, Joanne

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