If you go back a couple hundred years there was a belief in an idea called ‘degeneration’. This was the idea that ‘madness’ was hereditary and passed down the generations. It may start as an eccentricity and in the following generation come out in the form of manic depression. The next generation may exhibit a family member with epilepsy or another increasingly evident manifestation of the problem. Ultimately, the family line would terminate in a dementia laden generation of cretins. This idea was expounded in the 1850’s by Benedict-Augustin Morel.  Anxiety was considered a stepping stone on this path.

Morel was hugely influential, a pillar of the establishment, and an idiot. His idea contributed to some of the most hideously unjust results of mental illness. Families in England would literally hide away their mentally ill relatives, for fear their condition would become known, and condemn the family line. Who would want to marry into a family so clearly and scientifically known to be headed to the asylum? This is where we get the idea of the mad brother chained up in a secret room behind the library.

Now keep in mind this idea had some currency until not that long ago. One hundred and fifty years is not so far back, and the idea stayed around for quite a while. Doctors these days are a little more on the ball. But who is to say that in a hundred and fifty years time we will not look at the ideas of today and scoff, the way we now do about ‘degeneration’?

Very likely the wholesale distribution of addictive anti-depressants will be looked on in the future, in much the same way as we now view Morels ideas.
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