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JAMA 100 Years Ago
September 12, 2007

Current Medical Literature

Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(10):1226. doi:10.1001/jama.298.10.1226-b

Mind Cure; Its Service to the Community, R. C. Cabot, Boston.

Cabot analyzes, with remarkable clarity, the real in all mind cure systems and draws valuable deductions therefrom. While the limitations of psychic treatment in well-established disease are very great, its preventive power may also well be supposed to be great, for it gets a grip rarely attained by physicians on the actions of the not-yet-ill. “There is no question but that the fear of disease can lead through loss of appetite and sleep to serious disturbances of nutrition, which in turn predisposes to infection.” Laying aside all accretions, mind cure doctrine contains three main articles of belief. 1. People are sick because they think so. 2. People are sick because they don't behave themselves properly. 3. The thought of sickness in itself is a pernicious one and should be banished so far as possible from consciousness. With regard to the first point Cabot says that there is no question that the fear of disease can lead, through loss of appetite and sleep, to serious disturbance of nutrition, which, in turn, predisposes to infection. . . . In regard to the second point, apart from ordinary breaches of hygiene, and the harm done by alcohol, venereal diseases and reckless living, there are a number of women, who by the inertia of rest are thoughtlessly drifting anywhere, and a number of men, who by inertia or motion are recklessly driven nowhere. As to the third point, the author strongly endorses the perniciousness to the patient of the idea and atmosphere of disease. It is good for a physician to throw himself into the study of disease, because it makes him forget himself, but we may fail to realize how bad this same consideration of disease is for the patient, because it makes him think of himself. . . . The author summarizes his article practically as follows: 1. The mind cures movement has rendered notable public service because its main ideas are important and, in spirit if not in their letter, true. 2. The mind cure movement exerts a force of healthy criticism on the physician's tendency (a) to ignore the possible aggravation of disease by the mental effects of the methods of diagnosis and treatment which he uses; (b) to encourage the doctor habit, and (c) to treat neurotic cases either by an attempted and diluted mental régime or by “sitting on the safety valve.”

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