Welcome to the Asylum: Horrific Politically Incorrect Practices of Yesteryear

I’m honored to host author and friend, Michelle Griep, as she blogs about aspects of historical medicine this week. Check out her wonderful new novel, A Heart Deceived.
Welcome, Michelle!

In the eighteenth century, medical care for the mentally ill was both a remedy and a punishment. What went on behind the ivy-covered walls of most mental institutions makes
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest seem like a five-star hotel stay.

Granted, the majority of doctors really were trying their best to help their patients, but a many of their practices only made things worse. Here’s a sampling of what might happen to you…


Think of riding a crazed merry-go-round on steroids. Feeling queasy? This was worse. The “Swinging Chair” is a contraption designed to spin the patient at high speed, which would induce vomiting, bladder evacuation, and eventually lull the poor little buddy into a tranquilized state of mind.


Ever had a really bad headache? Just thinking about this course of treatment makes my brain hurt. Trephining is an early form of lobotomy and was actually the first psychosurgery procedure to change socially unacceptable behaviors. Without getting too gory, just picture a huge drill bit hovering a breath away from your skull—only it doesn’t hover for long, if you know what I mean.

Shock Treatment

There’s nothing electrical about this kind of shocking treatment. The patient was left blindfolded on a platform, waiting, and waiting, and then bam! Suddenly the platform falls and he plunges into a tub of icy water, which was intended to shock the brain back into normalcy. Noise shock treatment was used as well, wherein an individual was again blindfolded and then without warning, a cannon behind them was shot off.

Besides these three, there was the usual bloodletting, purging, binding, and the attempt at good ol’ hypnosis. All this to say, an asylum was best avoided if at all possible—which is exactly what the heroine in my latest release, A Heart Deceived, is trying to do…

Miri Brayden teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum—and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse. 

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law … from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder. 

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit—fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

Fortunately, the mental health industry has come a long way since then, but if you’d like a glimpse into the roots of present day psychiatric care, pick up a copy of A Heart Deceived, a timeless tale of love, lies and redemption. 
A Heart Deceived is available by David C. Cook and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook. Keep up with the exploits of Michelle Griep at Writer Off the Leash, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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