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Mary Manson

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Chapter 2
Historical Views of Abnormal Behaviour
Earliest treatment of mental disorders practiced thousands of years ago
Certain forms (those with headaches, convulsive attacks etc.) medicine man treated by
Chipping away one area of the skull with stone instruments until a hole was cut
through the skull;
This was thought to allow evil spirits to escape when in fact may have just
relieved some pressure
Demonology, Gods, and Magic
Early writings show Chinese, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Greeks often attributed abnormal
behaviour to a demon or god that had taken possession of the person
Main treatment for demonic possession was exorcism
Hippocrates’ Early Medical Concepts
Hippocrates, referred to as the father of modern medicine, denies deities and demons
intervened in the development of mental illnesses
Insisted mental disorders had natural causes and appropriate treatments
Believed that mental disorders were due to brain pathology
Emphasized the importance of heredity and predisposition
Pointed out that injuries to the head could cause sensory and motor disorders
Doctrine of the four humours:
The four elements of the material world (earth, are, fire, water) combined to form the four
essential fluids of the body:
Blood (sanguis), phlegm, bile (choler), and black bile (melancholer)
These fluids combined in different proportions within individuals and a
person’s temperament was determined by which of the humours was dominant
Earliest & longest-lasting typologies of human behaviour:
The sanguine, the phlegmatic, the choleric, and the melancholic
Each of these “types” had it’s own personality attributes
Hippocrates considered dreams to be important and developed a basic concept of modern
psychodynamic psychotherapy
While he emphasized the natural causes of diseases, clinical observation, and brain
pathology as the root of mental disorder, he had little knowledge of physiology

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Early Philosophical Conceptions
The Greek philosopher Plato studied mentally disturbed individuals that committed criminal acts
and ways to deal with them à he believed these people should not receive punishment in the same way as
normal persons
Plato also made provisions for mental cases to be cared for in the community
Plato viewed psychological phenomena as responses of the whole organism
Emphasized the importance of individual differences in intellectual and other
abilities, and took into account sociocultural influences in shaping thinking and behaviour
Plato’s idea of treatment included “hospital” care for individuals who developed beliefs
different than the broader social order where they would be engage in conversations comparable to
Aristotle, a student of Plato, developed descriptions of consciousness
Held the view that “thinking” as directed would eliminate pain and help to attain pleasure
Aristotle discussed and rejected the possibility of psychological factors such as
frustration and conflict causing mental disorders
He subscribed to the Hippocratic theory of disturbances in the bile
Later Greek and Roman Though
Medical practices had developed to a higher level
Pleasant surrounding were considered great therapeutic value for mental patients
Physicians used a wide range of therapeutic measures
Diet, massage, hydrotherapy, gymnastics, and education, as well as some less desirable
practices, such as bloodletting, purging, and mechanical restraints
One of the most influential Greek physicians was Galen
Made a number of original contributions concerning the anatomy of the nervous system
Findings were based on the dissection of animals as human autopsies were not allowed
Took a scientific approach to the field dividing the causes of psychological disorders into
physical and mental categories
Among causes he named were injuries to the head, excessive use of alcohol,
shock fear, menstrual changes, economic reversals, and disappointment in love
Roman physicians…
Wanted to make their patients comfortable and used pleasant physical therapies such as
warm baths and massage
They followed the principle contrariis contrarius (opposite by opposite)
E.g. having their patients drink chilled wine while they were in a warm tub
Abnormality during the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, the more scientific aspects of Greek medicine survived in the Islamic
countries of the Middle East
The first mental hospital was established in Baghdad in 792 C.E.

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In these hospitals mentally disturbed individuals received humane treatment
The outstanding figure in Islamic medicine was Avicenna from Arabia, called the “prince of
physicians”, and the author of “The Canon of Medicine”, perhaps the most widely studied medical work
ever written
Avicenna frequently referred to hysteria, epilepsy, manic reactions, and melancholia
In Europe during the Middle Ages, scientific inquiry into abnormal behaviour was limited, and
the treatment of psychologically disturbed individuals was characterized more often by ritual or superstition
than by attempts to understand an individual’s condition
Mass Madness
During the last half of the Middle Ages in Europe
Peculiar trend emerged in efforts to understand abnormal behaviour
It involved mass madness: the widespread occurrence of group behaviour disorders that were
apparently cases of hysteria
Whole groups of people were affected simultaneously
Dancing manias (epidemics of raving, jumping, dancing, and convulsions) were reported
as early as the tenth century
One episode that occurred in Italy was known as
Tarantism – a disorder that included an uncontrollable impulse to dance that was often
attributed to the bite of the southern European tarantula or wolf spider.
This later spread to Germany and the rest of Europe where it was known as
Saint Vitus dance
Similar to the ancient orgiastic rites through which people had worshiped the Greek god
These rites had been banned with the advent of Christianity
They were deeply embedded in the culture, and were kept alive in secret
With time, the meanings of the dances changed, the old rites appeared but were
attributed to symptoms of the tarantula’s bite
The participants were no longer “sinners” but the unwilling victims of the
tarantulas spirit
The dancing became the “cure” and is the source of the dance we know
today as the tarantella
Isolated rural areas were afflicted with outbreaks of lycanthropy – a condition in which people
believed themselves to be possessed by wolves and imitated their behaviour
Mass madness reached its peak during the fourteenth and fifteenth century
Period noted for social oppression, famine, and epidemic diseases
Today, “mass hysteria” is known as mass psychogenic illness
It typically involves sufferers mistakenly attributing bodily changes or sensations to
serious disease
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