Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Psychiatry Before the DSM

They didn’t have The Onion in West Virginia in the mid to late 19th century, but still one has a right to remain skeptical of this list of conditions that would have gotten someone admitted into a psychiatric hospital, i.e. asylum. While the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was real, the poster also contains a web address and a telephone number. That tells us that it does not date to a century and a half ago.

So, let’s accept it as comic relief. It comes to us from the Never Yet Melted blog, thanks to Dr. Joy Bliss of the Maggie’s Farm blog.


The fun part is choosing which categories in this apparently primitive classification system are the most interesting.

Here are a few:

Kicked in the head by a horse

Marriage of son

Novel reading


Gathering in the head

Parents were cousins

Rumor of husband murder

Seduction and disappointment


Ares Olympus said...

The list is peculiar, looks more like a PR trivia campaign than an actual old document like from a historical society.

Yes, the URL at the bottom is for tours:

So maybe someone compiled it from actual patient records given for entry made up case-by-case? You can wonder if the hospital doctors were not laughing at some of their made up reasons as they wrote them?

The list is also mentioned from a 2013 article:

Wikipedia has more details.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, subsequently the Weston State Hospital, was a Kirkbride psychiatric hospital that operated from 1864 until 1994 by the government of the U.S. state of West Virginia, in the city of Weston. Built by architect Richard Andrews, it was constructed from 1858-1881.
Originally designed to house 250 patients in solitude, the hospital held 717 patients by 1880; 1,661 in 1938; over 1,800 in 1949; and, at its peak, 2,600 in the 1950s in overcrowded conditions. A 1938 report by a survey committee organized by a group of North American medical organizations found that the hospital housed "epileptics, alcoholics, drug addicts and non-educable mental defectives" among its population.
The hospital was auctioned by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources on August 29, 2007. Joe Jordan, an asbestos demolition contractor from Morgantown, was the high bidder and paid $1.5 million for the 242,000-square-foot (22,500 m2) building. Bidding started at $500,000. Joe Jordan has also begun maintenance projects on the former hospital grounds.

In October 2007, a Fall Fest was held at the Weston State Hospital. Guided daytime tours were offered as well as a haunted hospital tour at night, a haunted hayride and a treasure hunt starting on the hospital front porch. Family hayrides, arts and crafts and local music were also offered.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

God bless the Daily Mail.