Thales moved attention away from mystical causes of mental illness, viewing them as natural events (with the source being inside the sufferers themselves) that should be approached from more of a scientific perspective.


Pythagoras was the first to claim the brain as the organ of human thought, in addition to being the source of mental disturbances.   He adopted the notion of biological humors, and believed mental illnesses were the result of a disequlibrium of the basic harmonies (good-bad, love-hate, single-plural, and limited-unlimited).


It is important to note that Hippocrates was the first to establish the brain as the seat of consciousness, and attributed mental illness to some sort of pathology in the brain, in addition to the fact that he differentiated between mania, melacholia, and dementia.

According to Hippocrates, the mind made humans mad or delirious, and he believed mental illness the the result of some sort disparity between the content of dreams and reality. He also showed a relationship between diagnosis and treatment, and believed these illnesses had a natural, rather than a spiritual cause.

Aside from Hippocrates, however, a more scientific view of possible causes of mental illness was mostly absent during this time period.  For example, most Greek medicine men continued to support some type of a magico-religious demonology as a cause of mental illness and illness in general (Brown & Menninger, 1940).

Hippocrates was opposed to exorcism and punishment as a treatment of mental illness, and advocated exercise and tranquility instead, and in some cases bloodletting to reestablish humoral balance.


Brown, J. F., & Menninger, K. A. (Col), (1940). The psychodynamics of abnormal behavior. (pp. 23-47). New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill Book Company, xvi, 484 pp. doi: 10.1037/11534-002

Millon, T. (2004).  Masters of the mind.  Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Page created by: Christy Tyrrell

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  7. Emily says:

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