If what you mean by the "dark ages" is that psychological symptoms as
well as conversion symptoms are complex and varied and not well
understood, then it was true of the 20s and just as true now. If what you
mean is that "hysteria" is a vague and pejorative term rather than a
medical or scientific one, it had clinical descriptions and a mass of
medical articles that became constant with WWI. It does not mean just
the general meaning of acting out or crazed, and Eliot's representations of
it fit pretty consistent clinical descriptions.
Migraine is not much touched by painkillers alone before or after it starts.
But for many people it is stopped by the prescription medication that
includes a muscle relaxant. That is because it is vascular, muscular, and
chemical. Having had them for years and once for a period of about two
years every day, I know a good deal about controlling them. Not
everything works for everyone. Fortunately, mine are mainly controlled
Date sent: Sat, 28 Sep 2002 12:40:49 -0500
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Some Queries, was Re: Deluge...
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Nancy Gish wrote:
> It was not in the dark ages at all. French psychologists had for the
> last century studied what they called "hysteria."
This could get complicated and lead us far afield -- but (among a number
of other things) it is precisely "hysteria" as a psychiatric diagnosis
that leads me to characterize 1920 as "still in the dark ages." Even the
psychiatric categories in current use are (probably) only temporary
place-holders for various (usually vaguely defined) "bunches of symptoms"
that as yet are not really understood. "Depression," for example, may be
no more specific a diagnosis than "cancer." This is certainly true of
PTSD, which can be seen as sort of an arrow pointing in the direction of
research needing to be done.
Migraine was described and named by the ancient Greeks, but it was only
the last 5 years or so that they discovered a major feature of it. It had
been assumed that it was a vascular headache. It is that; but it also
involves the release of a painful chemical by the nerves. That is one of
the reason painkillers taken after the onset of migraine are mostly
Incidentally, an extraordinarily fascinating book, written by a
classical scholar who is also a practicing psychiatrist (or a practicing
psychiatrist who is also a classical scholar) is Jonathan Shay, _Achilles
in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character_ (New York:
Atheneum, 1994). Shay runs a clinic for Vietnam veterans. He describes
Achilles as exhibiting the symptoms of one form of PTSD.