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that they will become unbalanced. Fear has a tremendous influence on
the purely bodily functions, but its influence on the mental functions
is incomparably greater, and a person will often get that which he
fears he is going to get.
Now the hereditary character of insanity is not taken in the same
absolute sense in which it was formerly. While we still consider it a
dysgenic factor, yet we recognize the paramount importance of
environment; and we know that by proper bringing-up, using the
expression bringing-up in its broadest sense--including a proper
mental and physical discipline--any hereditary taint can be
counteracted. In connection with this subject, the following very
recent statistics will prove of interest.
The families of 558 insane persons cared for in the London county
asylums were investigated, and, according to reports received from
the educational authorities, only 15 of these (less than 3 per cent)
had mentally defective children. As to the time of the birth of the
children, whether before or after the attack of the insanity, we find
the following figures: 56 out of 573 parents had children after their
first attack of insanity, and 106 children were born after the onset
of insanity in the parent; while the remaining 1259 children were born
before the parent became insane.
Altogether, as will be seen from a discussion of the various factors
rendering marriage permissible or nonpermissible, I am inclined to
consider environment a more important factor than heredity. The purely
physical characteristics bear the indelible impress of heredity. But
the moral and cultural characteristics, which in the modern civilized
man are much more important than the physical, are almost exclusively
the results of environment.
I will not attempt either exhaustive or concise definitions of the
terms named in the caption, for the simple reason that it is
impossible to give satisfactory definitions of them. The conditions
which these terms designate do not constitute definite disease-entities,
and many different things are understood by different people when these
terms are mentioned. Only brief indications of the meaning will be
Neurosis is a functional disease of the nervous system.
Neurasthenia is a condition of nervous exhaustion, brought about by
various causes, such as overwork, worry, fright, sexual excesses,
sexual abstinence, and so on. The basis of neurasthenia, however, is
often or even generally a hereditary taint, a nervous weakness
inherited from the parents.
Psychasthenia is a neurosis or psychoneurosis similar to neurasthenia,
characterized by an exhaustion of the nervous system, also by weakness
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