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Hack Tuke, Daniel – Sickness - Inducing hydrophobia by suggestion only and the effect of Fear



Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

As described in Illustrations Of The Influence Of The Mind Upon The Body In Health And Disease, Designed To Elucidate The Action Of The Imagination - Daniel Hack Tuke, M.D., M.R.C.P.,

SECTION II. — Irregular and excessive Muscular Contraction :

Dr. Ferriar in his " Medical Histories and Reflections " (vol. iii, p. 46), treating of Rabies Canina, observes :

"Dr. Percival has justly remarked in his letter to Dr. Hay Garth that the difficulty of swallowing is sometimes produced by the power of Imagination alone. I met with an instance of this kind lately in which it was very difficult to prevent a person from rendering himself completely hydrophobic. Himself and his wife had been bitten by a dog- which they supposed to be mad. The woman thought herself well, but the man, a meagre hypochondriacal subject, fancied that he had uneasiness in his throat, and that he could hardly swallow anything. When he first applied to me, a medical friend who was present asked him whether he had any sensation of heat at the pit of the stomach. He answered in the negative doubtfully ; but next day I found him in bed, complaining of heat at the pit of the stomach, difficulty of swallowing, tremors, and confusion in the head. He continued to persuade himself he was ill of rabies, and confined himself to bed, expecting death for nearly a fortnight. At last I remarked to him that persons who were attacked by rabies never survived more than six days ; this drew him out of bed, and he began to walk about. By a little indulgence of his fears this might have been converted into a very clear case of hydrophobia, and the patient would probably have died."

SECTION II. — Irregular and Excessive Muscular Contraction : Spasms and Convulsions.

Romberg cites from Chomel the case of a physician at Lyons " who assisted in the dissection of several hydrophobic patients, and was seized with the conviction that he had been inoculated with the virus. He lost his appetite and was sleepless; when he attempted to drink he was seized with choking and spasm of the pharynx; for three days he wandered about the streets in a state of despair, till at last his friends succeeded in convincing him that his malady had its foundation in his mind" (A Manual of the Nervous Diseases of Man. By M. H. Romberg, M.D. Translated for the Sydendam Society by Dr. Sieveking. 2 vols. 1853, I, p. 183).

Trousseau says he has known physicians — men of strong minds and courage — who, although well aware of the conditions needed for the development of rabies, were subject for several months and even years after attending and dissecting persons suffering from hydrophobia, to more or less distressing attacks of dysphagia, on the mere recollection of the awful scenes which they had witnessed. "Time alone got rid of their nervous susceptibility which manifested itself in the shape of spasm of the pharynx, and they cured themselves of it by appealing to their knowledge of the disease and by forcing themselves to drink some liquid whenever they felt the sensation coming on" (Trousseau's Clinical Medicine. Translated for the New Sydenham Society by Dr. Bazire. 4 vols. 1868., I, p. 692).

It may here be observed that, according to this physician, there is in nervous hydrophobia dysphagia only, and no general convulsions, the spasm affecting the pharynx alone, while the respiration is unaffected. If the dysphagia extends beyond four days, the strong probability is that the disorder is not due to any virus, but solely to the Imagination.

The source of the experience

Hack Tuke, Daniel

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image


Observation contributed by: Henry Ibberson