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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 609 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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INSANITY ASSOCIATED WITH EPILEPSY.—The term " epileptic insanity," which has for many years been in common use, is epileptic now regarded as a misnomer. There is in short no !sanity. such disease as epileptic insanity. A brain, however, which is so unstable as to exhibit the sudden discharges of nervous energy which are known as epileptic seizures, is prone to be attacked by insanity also, but there is no form of mental disease exclusively associated with epilepsy. Many epileptics suffer from the disease for a lifetime and never exhibit symptoms of insanity. The majority of patients, however, who suffer from epilepsy are liable to exhibit certain mental symptoms which are regarded as characteristic of the disease. Some suffer from recurrent attacks of depression, ill-humour and irritability, which may readily pass into violence under provocation. Others are emotionally fervid in religious observances, though sadly deficient in the practice of the religious life. A third class are liable to attacks of semi-consciousness which may either follow upon or take the place of a seizure, and during these attacks actions are performed automatically and without consciousness on the part of the patient. When epileptics do become insane the insanity is generally one of the forms of mania. Either the patient suffers from sudden furious attacks of excitement in which consciousness is entirely abolished, or the mania is of the type of the elevated stage of folie circulaire (manic-depressive insanity) and alternates with periods of deep depression. In the elevated period the patient shows exaggerated self-esteem, with passionate outbursts of anger, and periods of religious emotionalism. While in the stage of depression the patient is often actively suicidal. Epileptic patients who suffer from recurrent attacks of delirious mania are liable to certain nervous symptoms which indicate that not only are the motor centres in the brain damaged, but that the motor tracts in the spinal cord are also affected. The gait becomes awkward and laboured, the feet being lifted high off the ground and the legs thrown forward with a jerk. The tendon reflexes are at the same time exaggerated. These symptoms indicate descending degeneration of the motor tracts of the cord. If the mental attacks partake of the character of elevation or depression the mental functions suffer more than the motor. These patients, in course of time, become delusional, enfeebled and childish, and in some cases the enfeeblement ends in complete dementia of a very degraded type. Where insanity is superadded to epilepsy the prognosis is unfavourable.
INSANITY (from Lat. in, not, and sanus, sound)

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