Used as early as 1829, the ‘ medical ‘ term neurasthenia to describe nervous weakness was quickly taken up in America forty years later when neurologist George M. Beard formally introduced the concept of ‘ nervous exhaustion ‘.
With symptoms that included anxiety, headache, palpitations, high blood pressure and mild depression, neurasthenia became associated with the pressures suffered by middle-class businessmen, politicians, and others sold on the American Dream. Indeed, it was nicknamed ‘Americanitis ‘ and claimed President Roosevelt among its sufferers. William James, Proust, Wilfred Owen and Virginia Woolf were also neurasthenic. By the 1920s it had definitely become a fashionable condition among certain groups in Western society ( it was virtually unknown among the labouring classes, assembly workers and shop assistants) and its popularity engendered a whole industry of quack cures. In an earlier Jot we learned that the regular imbibing of a nerve tonic could banish neurasthenia. Mrs Woolf swore by lengthy ‘rest cures ‘. But in this advert from a January 1921 issue of the British magazine The Review of Reviewswe are shown how electricity administered through the Pulvermacher Appliance might be the answer.
But before the poor sucker, sorry, sufferer , was asked to shell out to The Pulverbacher Electrologial Institute ( established 1848) of Ludgate Hill, London, he/she was asked the following questions:
Are you nervous, timid or indecisive ?
Do you lack self confidence?
Do you dread open or closed spaces?
Are you wanting in Will Power?
Are you ‘fidgety’, restless or sleepless?
Do you blush or turn pale readily?
Do you shrink from strange company?
Are you subject to sudden impulses?
Do you crave for stimulants or drugs? Continue reading