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Stress in '75 (1875)

July 24, 2000

The failing of the journalist on the sex article has forced us to dig into our archives. This week, we remind you that good health doesn't happen through diet alone. You must also have quality rest, exercise, and wine*. To reinforce these points, we present an article from The People's Medical Advisor. Note, this is an actual article which was re-printed in the Spring 1995 issue of Glimmer Train Stories.

*Opinions are solely from the site manager who does not advocate consumption of alcohol in any way--but also does not mind Merlot.

Excerpts from: The People's Medical Advisor
Buffalo, New York
July, 1875

Nervous Debility or Exhaustion

This affection, also popularly known as Nervous Prostration, or Nervous Weakness, and, to the medical profession, as Neurasthenia, or Nervous Asthenia, is becoming alarmingly prevalent.

The wear, tear, and strain of modern life are concentrated upon the nervous system. The care and consequent fret, worry and labor of this age are greater ever before known. The result of this extreme activity is exhaustion and weakness. Physical bankruptcy is the result of drawing incessantly upon the reserve capital of the nerve force.

We [The People’s Medical Adviser] extract the following from an article which recently appeared in the New York Tribune:


The stone age, the bronze age and the iron age, we have heard of; likewise of the Dark Ages, and other self-marking eras in human history. As for the present, it might with fitness be known as the age of engineering, or of electricity, both of which proud titles it has won by its achievements. Yet there is also a less roseate view to be taken of it, and another title to be given to it, base upon its too-evident frailties; namely, that it is an age of nervousness.

Such is the view taken by the famous psychologist, Dr. William Erb, of the University of Heidelberg. Nervousness, he says, meaning nervous excitement, nervous weakness, is the growing malady of the day, the physiological feature of the age. Hysteria, hypochondria and neurasthenia are increasing with fearful rapidity among both sexes.

They begin in childhood, if not indeed inherited. Minds are overburdened in school, with too much teaching, or misdirected teaching. The pleasures of social life follow, overexciting the already enfeebled nervous system. Business life is made up of hurry and worry and shocks and excitements. Society, science, business, art, literature, even religion, are pervaded by a spirit of unrest, and by a competitive zeal which urges its victims on remorselessly. No man knows repose. The result is, wreckage. The pharmacopoeia is over crowded with nerve tonics, nerve stimulants, nerve sedatives. The medical profession devotes its best energies to the treatment of neuropaths. And as a people we are, or are becoming, excitable, irritable, morbid, prone to sudden collapse through snapping of the overtense chord of the nervous vitality.

Nowhere are the rush and hurry and overstrain of life more marked than in this much-achieving Nation. The comparative youth and freshness and vigor of the American people enable them to do and to endure what would be beyond the power of an older and more wornout community. Yet there is no disguising the fact that the pace tells even here, and often tells to kill. True, all the tendencies of the ages are in that direction. Inventions, discoveries, achievements of science, all add to the sum of that which is to be learned, and widen the field in which there is work to be done. What we need to learn is, however, that all these things are for man, not man for them. If knowledge is increased, we should take more time for acquiring it, knowing that, with the consequent increase of power, we shall be able to achieve as much afterward in the shorter time as our predecessors did in the longer time their briefer study afforded. Greater ability should mean not only greater results wrought, but fuller repose as well. For it would be a sorry ending of this splendid age of learning and of labor to be known as an age of unsettled brains and shattered nerves.