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Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.
FEAR AND DISEASE
If we examine closely the symptoms of fear, we invariably find the symptoms of functional psychosis or neurosis. Fear affects the muscular and sensory systems, the vasomotor system, the respiratory system, the sudorific glands, the viscera, the heart, the intestines, all organs and functions of the organism.
Bain, in describing the emotions of fear or terror, says, "Terror on the physical side shows both a loss and a transfer of nervous energy. The appearances may be distributed between the effects of relaxation and effects of tension. The relaxation is seen, as regards the muscles, in dropping of the jaw, in the collapse overtaking all organs not specially excited, in trembling of the lips and other parts, and in the loosening of the sphincters. Next, as regards the organic processes and viscera. The digestion is everywhere weakened; the flow of saliva is checked, the gastric secretion arrested (appetite failing), the bowels deranged; the respiration is enfeebled. The heart and circulation are disturbed; there is either a flushing of the face or a deadly pallor. The skin shows symptoms―cold sweat, the altered odor of the perspiration, the creeping action that lifts the hair. The kidneys are directly or indirectly affected. The sexual organs feel the depressing influence. The secretion of milk in the mother's breast is vitiated."
Darwin gives the following description of fear:―
"The frightened man at first stands like a statue, motionless and breathless, or crouches down as if to escape observation. The heart beats quickly and violently, but it is very doubtful if it then works more efficiently than usual so as to send a greater supply of blood to the body; for the skin instantly becomes pale, as during incipient faintness. The paleness of the surface, however, is probably in large part or is exclusively due to the vasomotor center being affected in such a manner as to cause the contraction of the small arteries of the skin. That the skin is much affected under the sense of great fear we see in the marvelous manner in which the perspiration immediately exudes from it. The exudation is all the more remarkable as the surface is then cold, and hence the term, a cold sweat; whereas the sudorific glands are properly excited into action when the surface is heated. The hairs also on the skin stand erect, and the superficial muscles shiver. In connection with the disturbed action of the heart the breathing is hurried. The salivary glands act imperfectly; the mouth becomes dry and is often opened and shut. I have also noticed that under slight fear there is a slight tendency to yawn. One of the best symptoms is the trembling of all muscles of the body. From this cause and from the dryness of the mouth, the voice becomes husky or indistinct, or may altogether fail."
If we turn now to the manifestations of psychopathic maladies, we meet with the same fear symptoms: -
(a) The attacks may be muscular, involving symptoms such as trembling, shaking, paresis, paralysis, or rigidity; there may be affection of locomotion of the muscular co-ordination.
(b) There may be sensory disturbances,―anesthesia, paresthesia, analgesia, or hyperalgesia as well as affection of the muscular sense and kinesthesia.
(c) There may be skin disturbances, such as arrest of perspiration or profuse perspiration, especially under the influence of emotions, worry, and fatigue; such perspiration may also occur at night, and in some cases the fear of tuberculosis may be associated with such conditions.
(d) The lungs may become affected functionally, and there may occur respiratory disturbances; coughing, hawking, apnea, dyspnea, and asthmatic troubles.
(e) The heart becomes affected, bringing about precordial pain; palpitation of the heart, bradycardia, tachycardia, and cardiac arrythmia.
(f) The stomach and intestines become affected, indigestion and vague fugitive soreness and pain may be experienced all over or in special regions of the abdomen; constipation or diarrhea may ensue.
(g) The renal apparatus may become affected and its activity arrested, or as is more often the case in the milder forms of psychopathic troubles, there may be present an alteration in the amount or frequency of micturition, such as is found in the conditions of anuria and polyuria.
(h) Menstruation becomes disturbed, and we may meet with conditions of dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, menorrhagia, and other disturbances of the tubes, ovaries and uterus.
(i) There are disturbances of the nervous system, such as a headache and a general dull sensation of fatigue and paresis of all mental functions, with dizziness and vertigo.
On the mental side we find in the psychopathies the following disturbances:―
(a) Affections of perceptual activity,―illusions and hallucinations.
(b) Affections of intellectual activity,―argumentativeness in regard to insignificant things.
(c) Affections of the moral sense,―scrupulousness, over-conscientiousness, not living up to ideal states.
(d) Affections of religious life,―fear of commission of sins and terror of punishment.
(e) Affections of social life,―timidity, blushing, etc.
(f) Affections in regard to objects, such as astrophobia, acmephobia, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, etc.
(g) Affections of conceptual life,―insistent ideas.
(h) Affections of the attention,―aprosexia.
(i) Affections of the will,―states of aboulia, indecision, discord, conflicts, and uncontrollable impulses.
(j) Affections of the memory,―amnesic and paramnesic states.
(k) General mental fatigue.
(l) Affections of sexual life―impotence, perversion, and inversion.
(m) Affections in regard to marital relations.
(n) Affections in regard to personal life,―diffidence, self-condemnation, self-depreciation.
(o) Affections of apparent loss of personality―feeling of self gone.
(p) Formation of new personalities,―dual and multiple personality.
In connection with all such neurotic affections we find invariably present a feeling of unrest, hesitation, doubt, conflict, discord, uneasiness, a feeling of anxiety, conscious or subconscious, feeling of some impending evil. In all such affections we find the brooding spirit of the most powerful of all animal instincts,―the fear instinct. Neurosis is a disease of self-preservation and fear."
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