Mental Illness

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Mental Illness: Treatment in the Middle Ages

Alyssa Berck
Block 4
English 12

Berck 1
Alyssa Berck
Mrs. Atkins
English 12
2 November 2009
Mental Illness: Treatment in the Middle Ages
Throughout time, the causes, effects, and treatment of mental illnesses has been debated and treated in numerous, sometimes odd, ways, but no treatments varied as widely as those in the Middle Ages. During The Middle Ages the lack of the technologies, sanitary procedures, and knowledge of the human body caused the containment of any disease nearly impossible. With such a lack of knowledge the people turned to the only thing they were sure of: Religion. Religion played into all forms of illnesses, especially those that involved an instability of the mind. Treatments for such illnesses varied immensely and were generally left to the infected person's family, who generally looked to God for answers. "According to the Church, if one was to get sick, it was believed the illness was a physical manifestation of some sin or weakness of the soul." (Medieval Period) As stated in the above quote, one of the main theories for the appearance of a mental illness was either because the person had committed a terrible sin or God was simply testing their faith. The story of Margery Kempe is an example of both. Margery had never made a formal confession and had spent her life giving herself penance for her sins. When she was sure she was going to die, she finally called for a Priest to hear her confession. Her confession was not heard fully and the thought of Berck 2

going to Hell caused her to see manifestations of the Devil, or to go 'insane'. The story also illustrates the lack of medical knowledge in those times seeming as her sudden hallucinations were probably caused by the difficulties she experienced during the pregnancy and birth of her child. Not by an act of God. Seeming as most people believed that God sent these illnesses as...
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