Tuesday, September 24, 2019

125 Reasons You Could End Up in a Lunatic Asylum in the 19th Century



Reasons for admission into the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia from 1864 to 1889 included laziness, egotism, disappointed love, female disease, mental excitement, cold, snuff, greediness, imaginary female trouble, “gathering in the head,” exposure and quackery, jealousy, religion, asthma, masturbation, and bad habits. Spouses used lunacy laws to rid themselves of their partners and in abducting their children.

The diseases attributed to those admitted to the hospital from its opening in 1864 through 1880 were varied, with the most common being 304 patients with chronic dementia, 254 with acute mania, 225 with melancholia, and 165 with chronic mania. Listings were given of the supposed causes of the diseases, and they were labeled supposed causes, with the physicians of the time feeling “a little unease with them,” they still published them. Most common at Weston were the 359 who were “not assigned” a cause, and “heredity,” and “epilepsy” ranked next. Forty to fifty patients were attributed each of the following causes: “intemperance,” “ill health,” “menstrual,” “traumatic injury,” and “masturbation.” One honest man was listed with “masturbation for 30 years.”





REASONS FOR ADMISSION

WEST VIRGINIA HOSPITAL FOR THE INSANE (WESTON)

OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889


Amenorrhea
Asthma
Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Carbuncle
Cerebral softening
Cold
Congestion of brain
Constitutional
Crime
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Diphtheria
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Disappointment
Dissipation of nerves
Dissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Doubt about mother’s ancestors
Dropsy
Effusion on the brain
Egotism
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband
Gastritis
Gathering in the head
Greediness
Grief
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Imprisonment
Indigestion
Intemperance
Interference
Jealousy
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Laziness
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphilis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception
Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Nymphomania
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Politics
Puerperal
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Remorse
Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion
Salvation army
Scarlatina
Seduction
Seduction & disappointment
Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Smallpox
Snuff
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Sunstroke
Superstition
Suppressed masturbation
Suppression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Trouble
Uterine derangement
Venereal excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women
Women trouble
Young lady & fear


According to Snopes, although this list is frequently posted as a joke, it is somewhat rooted in truth. The list was compiled from the log book of the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, documenting admissions to that institution between 1864 and 1889 and has been published or referenced in several books and research papers. It has also been archived by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.



The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) in the mountains of Weston, West Virginia, holds many dark and disturbing stories. Later known as the Weston State Hospital, TALA was a Kirkbride psychiatric hospital, constructed from 1858-1881 and in operation from 1864 until 1994. The main building is one of the largest hand-cut stone masonry buildings in the United States.



Although this list was sourced from a contemporaneous hospital log, its entries should not be considered as denoting things that were all considered symptoms of mental instability. Rather, among patients who were treated at West Virginia Hospital for the Insane for various illnesses such as chronic dementia, acute mania, and melancholia, these entries recorded the reasons or causes why those patients were said to have developed their underlying maladies. That is, people didn’t think that novel reading, asthma, the marriage of one’s child, politics, or falling from a horse were symptoms of mental illness, but rather factors that might have produced or exacerbated such an illness.




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