Common Illnesses


Hysteria was seen to be the starvation of the uterus or the crowding of other organs because of the uterus’s displacement. If the uterus was displaced, it was seen to have wandered up to the upper part of the body where it did not belong. Treatment for hysteria was physical as opposed to mental therapy (Okasha, 2005).

Documented Examples of Hysteria:

  1. “a woman who loves bed,” she does not rise and does not shake it (Okasha, 2005).
  2. a woman “who is ill in seeing, who has pain in her neck” (Okasha, 2005).
  3. a woman “pained in her teeth and jaws, she does not know how to open her mouth” (Okasha, 2005).
  4. “a woman aching in all her limbs with pain in the sockets of her eyes” (Okasha, 2005).

Ancient Egyptians linked depression to the heart, along with disturbances of thinking, emotions, retardation and excitement, and forgetfulness. Today, one associates such diseases or disorders with the mind and the brain, but to Ancient Egyptians, the mind and the heart existed together (Okasha, 2005). The causes of depression were seen to be problems with the vascular systems or fecal matter, showing that Egyptians attributed depression to bodily functions (Okasha, 1999).

Documented examples of depression:

  • “He huddled up his clothes and lay, not knowing where he was. His wife inserted her hand under his clothing. She said: ‘my brother, no fever in your chest and limbs, but sadness of the heart”(Okasha, 2005).
  • “Now death is to me like health to the sick, like the smell of a lotus, like the wish of aman to see this house after years of captivity” (Okasha, 2005).

Egyptians viewed life as a house in which every night the soul would return to the house to be renewed and reborn the next day. By committing suicide, the soul would lose this house and not be able to return to it (Okasha, 2005). Egyptians felt that not only the soul, but the entire body, was controlled by the gods. Therefore, simple tasks such as eating and drinking were under the duty of the gods. To Egyptians, it was not about whether or not suicide is sinful, but rather about the preservation of the dead body by providing offerings and services to keep the soul alive. Like depression, causes of suicide were physical and were attributed to the vascular system or fecal matter (Okasha, 2005).


Okasha, A. (1999). Mental health in the Middle East: An Egyptian perspective. Pergamon, 19, 917-933.

Okasha, A. (2005). Mental health in Egypt. Isr J. Psychiatry Related Science, 42, 116-125.

Page created by: Taylor Warner

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