According to Butcher, Mineka and Hooley, (2007), the earliest treatment of mental disorders were practiced by Stone Age. For certain mental disorders, such as those who complained of headache and showed raging behavior, it was blamed on bad spirits. During this age, abnormal behavior often attributed to possession and those possessions depended on the person’s symptoms. If a person’s speech or behavior appeared to have mystical significance, it was usually labeled as good spirit or god. Such people were often treated with respect and “people believed they had supernatural powers” (Butcher, Mineka, Hooley, 2007, p. 3). However, many possessions were considered to be due to an evil spirit particularly signs of excitement, overreaction, or when a person was engaged in a behavior that was contrary to a religion. The way people have analyzed it before, was a withdrawal of Gods protection. The treatment for such behavior was trephining.
According to Butcher, Mineka and Hooley (2007), trephining is a procedure performed with stone and it consisted of chipping away one area of the skull in the form of a circle until the skull was cut through. The opening on the skull is called trephine, which allowed the evil spirit to escape the head. Another type of treatment for a person affected by bad spirit was exorcism. According to Butcher, Mineka and Hooley, (2007), exorcism techniques varied but typically included magic and prayer. According to Butcher, Mineka and Hooley (2007), “references to abnormal behavior in early writings show that the Chinese, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Greeks often attributed such behavior to a demon or god who had taken possession of a person” (p. 28).
It is important to mention that Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) recognized the importance of environment. Hippocrates were also “often referred to as the father of modern medicine” (Butcher, Mineka & Hooley, 2007, p. 2). “Hippocrates denied that deities and demons intervened in the development of illnesses and insisted that mental disorders, like other diseases, had natural causes and appropriate treatments” (Butcher, Mineka & Hooley, 2007, p. 2). Another important aspect during Hippocrates time was a classification of mental disorders. “Hippocrates classified all mental disorders into three general categories, mania, melancholia, and phrenitis (brain fever),” (Butcher, Mineka & Hooley, 2007, p. 2). Diagnoses were given based on daily observation of a patient. Hippocrates’ also emphasis on the natural causes of diseases, on clinical observation, and on brain pathology as the root of mental disorders was truly revolutionary.
Mania was a possession, melancholia depression and phrenitis was an inflammation of body and mind. Melancholia was the attention seeker. Hippocrates believed that melancholia was due to environment, and sometimes they often removed patients from families or environment that might harm their emotional health. According to Butcher, Mineka and Hooley (2007), “the Greek philosopher Plato (429-347 B.C.) studied mentally disturbed individuals who had committed criminal acts and how to deal with them” (p. 29). Plato also diminished criminal responsibility for mentally ill people and stated that mentally ill persons are “not responsible for their acts and should not receive punishment in the same way as normal persons” (Butcher, Mineka, ; Hooley, 2007, p. 29). Plato has also emphasized role of sociocultural factors.
Bucker, Mineka and Hooley, (2007), stated that during the Middle Ages in Europe (c. 500-1500), “scientific inquiry into abnormal behavior was limited and the treatment of psychologically disturbed individuals was characterized more often by ritual or superstition than by attempts to understand an individual’s condition” (p. 32). During this time, scientific approaches and disciplines were rarely used. However, the Middle Ages was a time of a return of the belief that mental illness was due to supernatural causes. Treatment for mental illness during Middle Ages was left largely to the clergy and occurred primarily in monasteries, and use of prayer and exorcism was practiced again.
According to Bucker, Mineka and Hooley (2007), the first mental hospital was established in Baghdad in A.D. 792. Hospitals provided humane treatment to disturbed individuals. Bucker, Mineka and Hooley (2007) stated that “the outstanding figure in Islamic medicine was Avicenna from Arabia (c. 980-1037), called the “prince of physicians,” and the author of The Canon of Medicine, perhaps the most widely studied medical work ever written” (p. 32). They’ve also added that Avicenna referred to hysteria, epilepsy, manic reactions, and melancholia in his writings. Avicenna have also described the symptoms and complications of diabetes and declared that tuberculosis was contagious.
When looking at Chinese treatment, according to Butcher, Mineka and Hooley, (2007), medicine was based on a belief in natural rather then supernatural causes of illnesses. The most famous treatment was Yin and Yang, which focuses on restoring the balances. “From the sixteen century on, special institutions called asylums, sanctuaries or places of refuge meant solely for the care of the mentally ill” (Butcher, Mineka, Hooley, 2007, p. 36). Johann Weyer, according to Butcher, Mineka, Hooley, (2007), was a first physician to specialize in mental disorder, he was called “founder of modern psychopathology” (p. 36).
According to Butcher, Mineka, Hooley, (2007), “the Public Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, constructed in 1773, was the first hospital in the United States devoted exclusively to mental patients” (p. 37). After deinstitutionalization during twentieth century, number of patients spending time in inpatient hospital has been decreased. However, there was more stigma when it came to mental illness than any other psychical illness. “The original impetus behind the deinstitutionalization policy was that it was considered more humane (and cost-effective) to treat disturbed people outside of large mental hospitals, because doing so would prevent people from acquiring negative adaptations to hospital confinement” (Butcher, Mineka, Hooley, 2007, p. 43).
According to Feldman, (2005), the biological perspective suggests that “when an individual displays symptoms of abnormal behavior, the root cause will be found in a physical examination of the individual, which may reveal a hormonal imbalance, a chemical deficiency, or brain injury” ( p. 407). When it comes to the psychosocial model, there is a learning process.
According to Butcher, Mineka, Hooley, (2007), “psychosocial factors are those developmental influences, often unpredictable and uncontrollable negative events that may handicap a person psychologically, making him or her less resourceful in coping with events”. When it comes to sociocultural model, according to Feldman, (2005), it assumes that people’s behavior is shaped by the social circle, such as of family, friend, and culture they live in. “individual personality development reflected the larger society, its institutions, norms, values, and ideas, as well as the immediate family and other groups” (Butcher, Mineka, Hooley, 2007).
According to Butcher, Mineka and Hooley, (2007), the sixteenth century is possibly the first time in history when the brain was recognized as the site of mental functions and as the central organ of intellectual activity. As already concluded, many explanations have been considered when defining abnormal behavior. Such explanations have been spiritual, especially in the beginning of facing abnormal behavior. Another explanation is a scientific approach, which considers biological imbalances. Many different etiological theories, such as genetics and environmental influences, advanced knowledge which had enormous impact on the treatment of an individual with mental disorders and have definitely influenced current theories in clinical psychology.
Butcher, J., Mineka, S., ; Hooley, J. (2007). Abnormal psychology, (13th ed). NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Feldman, R. (2005). Essentials of understanding psychology (6th ed). NY: McGraw Hill Education.