Most of us can agree that mental health is an issue that affects the majority of the world. Developed countries and third-world countries alike have portions of their population who could benefit from quality mental care. But even in third-world countries, mental health today is very different now than it was even a century or two ago. Fortunately, your top psychologist in London (see will have more modern techniques for dealing with mental illness. Let’s take a look at some “cures” for mental illnesses that are no longer practised, and for good reason.

Hysteria therapy

This mental “disorder” dates back to the time of Hippocrates. Historically, women tend to fall on the negative side of…well, everything. Hysteria was no different. Everything from anxiety to fainting to emotional outbursts was attributed to hysteria, and it was exclusive to women. The name comes from the Greek word “hystera”, meaning uterus. It was posited that women would be afflicted with hysteria due to a “wandering” or “unfruitful” uterus. Treatments for the “ladies’ disease” included pelvic massage, high-powered hosing of the genitals, and in some rare cases, clitoridectomies. Fortunately, this “disorder” was debunked long ago…. way back in the ancient days of the 1950s.


This practise dates all the way back to the Neolithic era 7,000 years ago. While the exact reason for trepanation is not certain, scientists have hypothesised that it was to allow for the passage of spirits out of the brain, since mental illness at that time was believed to be caused by evil spirits or demons. Trepanation, or trepanning, was the practice of cutting or scraping away the bones of the skull. This was still occurring in certain small countries in Africa up until the early 20th century, making it a long-standing “treatment” for mental illness.


In the 18th century, Franz Mesmer popularised the notion that gravity and magnetism governed fluids in the body, and any disturbance in these forces resulted in health problems, including mental illness. To combat the effects of undesirable magnetic or gravitational pull, Mesmer would place magnets on patients’ bodies to restore the flow of bodily fluids. While this practice was not necessarily painful, it also was not effective, and its popularity declined rapidly after Mesmerism was proven to be more hype than actual science. It is important to note, however, that Mesmerism gave rise to hypnotism, albeit an earlier version of the modern hypnotism we know today.

Rotational therapy

Not to be confused with continuous lateral rotation therapy (CLRT) for pulmonary issues, rotation therapy was conceived by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin. Darwin decided that mental illness was caused by congestion in the brain, and that the solution for this congestion was a specially-designed chair which used centrifugal force to cure patients. The medical benefits were negligible at best, but this form of treatment did provide insight into the effect of G-forces on the human body.

Transorbital lobotomy

Probably the most recognised entry on this list, transorbital lobotomy (also known colloquially as “icepick lobotomy”) was introduced as a quicker, more affordable, and more effective alternative to the standard lobotomy. Walter Freeman, an American neurologist, developed a procedure first attempted by Italian psychosurgeon Amarro Fiamberti which allowed doctors to access the prefrontal cortex through the eye socket and inject a leukotome that destroyed areas of the brain thought to be the centre of mental illness. Freeman took his show on the road, performing thousands of lobotomies in hotel rooms and private homes. His operating tour ended in 1967 after one of his patients died of a brain hemorrhage, and the procedure fell out of popular practise.

While mental health and treatments are constantly being studied and new developments are made every day, we should be thankful that we don’t live in an era when these questionable practises were commonplace!



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