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1930's and 1940's
A Historical Overview of Mental Illness Treatment

A similarity of treatments during the 1930's and 1940's were induced seizures. These methods were based on the observation that epilepsy seldom occured along with schizophrenia. When they do the psychotic symptoms usually decrease after an epileptic fit. Later, these procedures were also used to treat manic depression and autism.

Cramp therapies were given in the 1930s. It was given good results but was no longer used after many patients died or suffered extensive heart damage. Schizophrenic patients were given injections with camphorated oil, and later cardiazol, which provoked seizures. Some patients' symptoms were alleviated. Before the muscle relaxant curare was put into use in 1957, fractures of the vertabrae occured in older patients. The inflicted cramps could severely damage the heart. Therefore, after several decades, it was no longer used as a method of treatment.

Electro convulsive therapy, or ECT, was commonly used as an effective treatment for those suffering from schizophrenia patients since the 1940s, but later was given to those suffering from depression as well. Although a seizure occurs, no harm is done because the patient has been completely relaxed by the anesthetic and muscle relaxant.

Provoked seizures were not the only way of treatment in the 1940's; surgery would also be a useful method.

The surgical procedure known as the lobotomy began to be used as a treatment mainly for schizophrenics in 1946. It was proven effective but was no longer considered neccessary to control psychotic symptoms with the introduction of antipsychotic drugs. The early lobotomy procedures were performed with an icepick on the frontal lobes of the brain. The director of this procedure, Walter Freeman, won the Nobel Prize.


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