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15 Shocking Pictures Of How We Used To Treat The Mentally Ill

15 Shocking Pictures Of How We Used To Treat The Mentally Ill

Mental illness or psychotic disorder is something which is always regarded as a predicament all over the world. Psychiatric patients are not welcome in families as they disturb the whole lifestyle and image. The last two centuries are usually documented as progressive but for this particular matter, things were insane and cruel. Mental illness was never actually considered as a disease and was never prioritized accordingly. People used to have different theories about different disorders, so they came up with their own methods of treatment. Researchers in the previous century made outstanding efforts to understand the actual causes of these disorders. Several mental illnesses are now well defined in terms of their cause and symptoms.

This research phase was not easy for both sides. Researchers and experts faced several problems and they had to take initiative to discover and cure the disorders. Patients, on the other hand, were forced to undergo many cruel experiments and treatments. Patients were mentally ill so in almost all of the treatments, the idea of their consent was barely even considered. They were sometimes shockingly forced to undergo experiments which would never be acceptable in this day and age. We scoured the internet and were able to come across 15 shocking pictures which show the cruel treatments many had to go through back in the day.

15. The Utica Crib


Utica Crib was not an electronic or temperature controlling device, it was more like a wooden or metallic cot. This was used during the 19th and 20th century to treat some of the psychiatric patients, especially at the New York State Lunatic Asylum in Utica. The basic purpose behind it was to prevent interactions between two or more aggressive patients. It even saw widespread use outside of Utica in almost all psychology centers despite it being harmful.

The Utica Crib was evidently used for a good purpose but when patients were forced to live in the cribs for extended time periods, it caused serious consequences. Patients suffered strokes, heart attacks, and other problems. Many problems emerged as a result of this, in fact, many deaths were recorded in early 19th century but this treatment continued anyway.

14. Shock Therapy With Insulin

Via and

Insulin is a hormone which is naturally produced by the body to maintain glucose. It is also used to control sugar levels in the body, and often in the case of diabetes where it is injected as a regular dose. Insulin shock therapy was introduced as a psychiatric treatment during early 1920’s. During these treatments, the patients were initially treated with a low dose of insulin but then it was gradually increased over time. The compound which was supposed to treat the patients from inside their body started to react due to its excessive dose.

As a result of this, many coma cases and even deaths were recorded during the 20th century due to these treatments. Many mentally ill patients endured side effects such as violent convulsions throughout the treatment.

13. The Tranquilizing Chair


The Tranquilizing Chair was not only an unfair experiment but also quite unsuccessful as well. It was designed to hypnotize or mesmerize the patients and to control their aggressive or truculent behavior. The designer of this chair was none other than the “Father of American psychiatry”, Dr. Benjamin Rush.

He apparently had a theory about a lot of the mentally ill patients. He believed that many of these mental illnesses and disorders were due to the malfunctioning of the arteries and that it was, in fact, an undiscovered arterial disease. The chair was designed to control blood flow inside the human body and affect the brain by shrinking and relaxing all the arteries. It was a failed experiment because its fundamental theory was totally incorrect. However, many researchers still believe that it could’ve been used for purposes other than psychiatric patients as it was pretty effective in controlling blood flow.

12. Electroshock Therapy


Electrotherapy is one of the most famous methods to be used for the treatment of schizophrenia. During this procedure, an electric current in a very controlled amount is passed through the brain; it affects primary and secondary functions and sometimes the whole chemistry of the brain. To perform this treatment, a special device was designed which usually put the psychiatrist in control over the whole procedure as it could be quite harmful to patients.

It was first introduced during the 1770’s to treat mental patients and as a treatment for certain other diseases. A different technique known as Electro convulsion therapy, which is a brain stimulation process, is still being used in the modern era as it is considered as one of the safest methods to treat mental illness and other problems.

11. Radiation therapy


During the 1890’s when several methods had already been introduced for the treatment of mental illnesses, researchers came up with the idea of Radiation therapy soon after the revolutionary revelation of x-rays. Normally, x-rays and radium therapies have been used for other treatments which include, cancer treatment, cartilage, and skin diseases. During radiation therapy, few assumptions were made as a positive outcome but as these rays are not human-friendly so their excessive use was observed to be injurious. It also burns the cell from the tissues exposed to the radiations.

In the early 1900’s, this therapy was specifically used to cure psychiatric patients with the majority of these being females.

10. Diathermia Treatment


Diathermia is a process in which heat is induced deep in the tissues for muscle relaxation. An electromagnetic current of high frequency is used to speed up the metabolism and to increase blood flow. Heat decreases the spasm of muscles gradually throughout but technically it is a swift process. The concept of diathermia was officially introduced in early 1910’s and the inventors kept developing and advancing it. Diathermia has basic three methods ultrasound, shortwave, and microwaves. But further, it has two types commonly used in surgeries. Mono-polar in which current is induced in one electrode and Bipolar in which both the electrodes are used.

These methods were used or tested on psychiatric patients in early 20th century. Switching on and off gave a shock to the patients and many of them caused serious syncope.

9. The Whirling Chair


The whirling chair was a very disturbing device used in the early 19th century. It was so designed that it can spin the patients horizontally and vertically as per use. It was to treat mania and insanity by whirling around and around until they lose their consciousness. It appeared to be effective on the psyche but it had some immediate consequences which included nausea and vomiting. This was an unethical way to treat to psychiatric patients as they already need more care and attention.

The whirling chair was to calm down the unstable and truculent patients but it does that by forcing them and taking away their consciousness. It can also disturb the current situation and it can also enhance the sensitivity of the patient’s illness.

8. Trepanation


Trepanation is not a cure for any mental illness but trepanning itself appears to be its symptom. It is a prehistoric method withstood along with countless other demon theories, superstitions and even a strong belief in magic. Trepanation was a procedure in with the experts used to make a hole in the patient’s skull for a cure for the possible reasons mentioned above. The act was not condemned at that time as the world was not aware of the term psychology.

During the early 19th century, it was used in some cases where specialists had no hopes of the recovery of their patients. The hole caused serious damage to the skull and it further damaged the disturbed brain, resulting in death in some cases.

7. Lobotomy


This is one of those procedures that almost everyone has heard about before. Lobotomies were the surgical operations to treat the mental illness by targeting the specific portions of the brain. It was not any more complex or explainable than the procedure of trepanation. The main goal behind a lobotomy was to treat the defected nerves of the brain and to restore the lost connections. During the 1950’s, it was one of the most famous treatments to cure mental disorders.

In this process, holes in the skull were made or eye sockets were used to access the brain. First, patients were shocked by electric current to unconsciousness and then thin metallic instruments were used to treat the brain fibers. It had a bad record compared to other procedures as the side effects were quite severe at times which usually included loss of motor functions and other erratic behavior.

6. Asylum Isolation


There is a reason why asylums usually end up being the setting for a horror movie or video game. The concept of asylums was introduced as the place where the mentally ill could be placed for treatment but most of the time this was done to remove such people from society, away from their families and community.

As new treatments started emerging and mental illnesses were taken more seriously, the asylums started getting overcrowded. This created a pretty grim situation and without anyone to keep check of how the mentally ill people were being treated, the conditions for most of the patients deteriorated instead of improving. Placing patients in complete isolation for days upon end was a very popular treatment method back in the day, although quite ineffective.

5. Hysteria therapy


Hysteria is a term from old times used for mental illness patients with excessive and uncontrollable emotions. Nowadays it has been redefined and is usually known as the Somatization disorder. For a long period of time this so called mental illness was strictly reserved for females. During the 20th century, research showed a disastrous change in the records and behavior of people regarding this disorder. People came to know what exactly it was and its symptoms were redefined. For its cure, different substances were used and the patients were forced to smell them so it could remove the excitement and calm them down. To settle down the uterus, females were advised to get married and have babies so this part could actually perform its real function.

4. The Mesmerism Theory


Franz Mesmer was a physician of late 18th and early 19th century. He proposed a theory which was less a scientific observation about moon’s gravity and more like a poetic possession of the moon. He thought that moon’s gravity affects the fluid of human brain as it affects the ocean to cause tides. Franz Mesmer worked on his theory and he found out the way to balance the gravitational pull of the moon. To do this, he had to maintain an opposite force so he used a magnetic field to restore the disorder of fluids in the brain.

He placed magnets all around the brain and tied some on different body parts. It was a baseless theory and not surprisingly there never was an effective outcome. Few cases were reported to be cured by this “revolutionary” concept but it still has a few believers even to this day.

3. Chemically Induced Seizures


Perhaps the only treatment which sort of worked on this list was the concept of inducing seizures using a bunch of chemicals. It was brought forth by a pathologist by the name of Ladislas von Meduna. During some of his experiments, he discovered these seizures would calm most of his patients, specifically, those suffering from schizophrenia.

He experimented with different chemical solutions such as absinthe but eventually settled with metrazol which seemed to work. Now, most of you might be wondering the reason why this procedure is on this list, well, it’s because while the procedure seemed to work most of the time, it still had some pretty nasty side effects. Most of these included loss of memory and even fractured bones when the side effects would turn violent.

2. Ice Baths With Restraints


Back in the day, mental illnesses weren’t thought of as anything different than a physical illness which is why most treatments involved physical approaches. Unlike diathermia where patients were usually exposed to heat and electromagnetic currents, this specific treatment involved patients being restrained and then put into ice cold baths.

Most of the time these treatments ended up being damaging to the patients instead of being helpful. Patients would also be put into complete isolation in hopes of calming them down. Yet again, many of the side effects of these treatments were pretty bad which went on to show the cruel manner in which people with mental illnesses were usually treated back in the day.

1. Treatment With Hydrotherapy


Hydrotherapy was considered as a cure for many diseases. In this method, water pressure and temperature with extreme potentials are used to control and affect the blood circulation. During the early 1900’s, this method was quite commonly used to treat several patients. They were all mentally ill so their consent apparently wasn’t very necessary for researchers. Bath Tubs and steam cabins were used to process this treatment.

In few cases, the patients were tied in the tubs or locked in steam cabins but all depending upon the seriousness of the condition. We can also see that tubs and the cabins were specially designed for such treatments and they all had the useful equipment to tie and calm an aggressive or scared patient. In these Hydrotherapy treatments, while normally performed with controlled temperatures, often times ended in serious injuries to the patient as they were held down in cold or hot water.

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