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July 22, 1899


JAMA. 1899;XXXIII(4):229-230. doi:10.1001/jama.1899.02450560049008

Recent analyses of prominent literati and scientists exhibit a tendency to confuse the neuroses arising from acquired neurasthenia with the neuroses of a similar type produced by degeneracy. The discussions of Zola's mental and physical constitution by Lombroso, Nordau and Arthur Macdonald betray traces of this confusion between congenital and acquired nervous states. The imperative ideas or obsessions are common to both, and it is on these that most stress has been laid as evidence of degeneracy. The occurrence of obsessions is largely due to the disturbance of the ego: that co-ordination of clear states of consciousness, of obscure states of consciousness and of physiologic states which, though unaccompanied by consciousness, are not less but even more effective than the conscious states. The automatic mental inhibitions last mentioned exercise an enormous influence in removing to the unconscious mental background ideas foreign to the general training of the individual or to