Therefore, it should be stressed that two main approaches to insanity developed in the 20th century: biological/neurological (insanity has organic or physical origins, for instance, abnormal brain functioning) and Freudian (insanity originates from psychological causes). However, completely curing insanity with medication has been impossible so far; it has only been possible to manage some of the symptoms of mental disorders.
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This corroborates the statement that insanity may have not only organic causes but also psychological ones. Noteworthy, the studies conducted by Freud and Freudians revealed that mental illnesses often originated from numerous restrictions imposed on the members of the society.
The institutionalization of insanity has rather a grim history. While it began in the Muslim world in the 8th century, Western Europe adopted a stance according to which insanity needs to be institutionally addressed as late as in the 18th century.
However, the first Western “madhouses” resembled prisons in which torture was used to their patients rather than institutions of healing and rehabilitation. Such a harsh situation was the result of the widespread beliefs about and perceptions of the nature of insanity; it was often thought that it has supernatural, demonic origins. Also, the insane were often regarded as wild animals, dangerous deviants that ought to be isolated.
However, there also exists a theory according to which the emergence of the asylum was a result of the social structure in which the ruling class built madhouses to better control the lower classes. The asylums also served as businesses, allowing its owners to generate profits; the “lunatics,” for instance, were sometimes used to amuse the crowd.
At the end of the 18th century, however, several bills were passed that led to a change in the manner in which asylums worked. Gradually, the practice of viewing the insane as dangerous beasts became less and less widespread, while the “mad-doctors” started being perceived as psychiatrists. In the 19th century, the mental hospitals flourished thanks to the popularization of a theory according to which the mentally ill would benefit from beautiful surroundings.
However, in these institutions, the patients still often remained isolated and mistreated due to several reasons (such as the fear of the personnel, and the remote locations of these hospitals because of which the control was minimal).
The history of insanity treatment is also rather grim. At first, the mentally ill were considered retards; they were made to pray and were subjected to solitary confinement, physical restraints, and various forms of physical abuse and torture. Later, when science began cooperating with the mental hospitals, the methods of “treatment,” ironically enough, became crueler; electroshock and insulin shock therapy, hot and cold water application was used in the 19-20th centuries; in the middle of the 20th century, a new method that led to dire consequences for the patients, lobotomy, was introduced.
It is paramount to stress that diagnosing insanity was (and, in many cases, remains) based on the cultural constructs such as the perceptions of the norm dominant in the society. For instance, before the last quarter of the 20th century, homosexuality was viewed as a deviation, and homosexuals were put into madhouses. Harshly strict perceptions of women’s sexuality led to the development of hysteria in women; females demonstrating sexual desire also were capable of being put into asylums. Even over the last few decades, social constructs influenced the mental health sphere, leading to the hospitalization of individuals who had, for instance, a “gender identity disorder.”
On the whole, it might be stated that the history of insanity is mostly comprised of dark, blatantly cruel facts. Nowadays, it is important to adhere to the approach according to which mental illnesses should be handled with caution, and the treatment ought to be aimed at the rehabilitation and management of the disorders. Care must also be taken while defining a certain state as a mental illness, for cultural bias might lead to diagnosing mental disorders in persons simply due to the dominating perceptions in society.