Professor Gilbert Ballet (March 29, 1853 – March 17, 1916) was a French psychiatrist, who studied medicine in Limoges and Paris and subsequently became Chef de Clinique under the world-famous professor Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893) at the Salpêtrière in Paris. In 1900, he became a professor of psychiatry, in 1909 he succeeded professor Joffroy as chair of clinical psychiatry and brain disorders at the Hôpital Sainte-Anne in Paris.
His monograph on neurasthenia is worthwhile reading, as this diagnosis vanished from medicine. However, many people suffering from high sensitivity have many traits of a neurasthenic patient.
For such patients, the hypersensitivity often leads to chronic pain syndromes. Instead of being treated with classical painkillers, such patients are recommended to try the natural compound palmitoylethanolamide, preferably in the PeaPlex formulation, as this is the only formulation with a special indication to support the nervous system.
AUTHORS’ PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION
It is not our intention to set forth in this work a full account, with illustrative cases, of Neurasthenia and its treatment. This affection has been the subject of many descriptions since the truly fundamental picture of it drawn by Beard.
The American author was not indeed the first to observe and to isolate Neurasthenia, since its principal symptoms are found in the Spinal Irritation of Franck, the Proteiform Neuralgia of Cerise, the Nervosity of Bouchut, and the Cerebrocardiac Neuropathy of Krishaber; but Beard’s monograph had the merit of being more synthetic and more complete than its predecessors, and above all it had the good fortune to appear at a propitious moment. While Nervous Exhaustion seemed to become multiplied in America and naturally drew the attention of neuro-pathologists (Weir Mitchell after Beard), in the old world the new conditions created by the exigencies of modern life promoted the recrudescence of the Neurosis from Exhaustion of which Monneret had already spoken.
It is an often-repeated commonplace today, that in consequence of the progress of civilization and the increase in cerebral activity entailed thereby, neuroses in all their forms have become much more common than formerly.
This statement deserves the trouble of verification, and it must be confessed that precise observations for making this verification with some degree of exactitude are still wanting. Besides, even if the pessimists were right, it would not thereby be proved that the entire increase in the number of nervous complaints must be ascribed to the refinements of civilization and the new requirements that our brains have to satisfy.
Intoxications, including the least refined of them, alcoholic poisoning, might rightly claim a large share in the determining causes of the nervous disorders that seem to be special to our epoch.
However, this be, notwithstanding the reserve with which scientific prudence enjoins us to receive unproved assertions, we cannot help thinking that, in some circles at least, Neuras-thenia is commoner than it was sixty years ago.
In any case we recognize it better, and we give it a name when we meet it; facts that may suffice in some measure to explain how it seems much more frequent to us than at the time when it was unnamed, or, what comes to the same thing, when it had too many names. Whether its frequency has increased at all, or not at all, moderately or a great deal, this much is certain, that Neurasthenia is a common complaint; and this is enough to explain the favor with which Beard’s description was greeted.
Charcot in France ensured its recognition and many others followed, so much so that at the present moment Neurasthenia, which was almost unknown thirty years ago, has more than assumed its rightful place in clinical medicine, and has become a convenient name which too often covers erroneous or incomplete diagnoses.
Hence it will not cause surprise that in a work devoted to the laying down of the hygienic
measures requisite for the prophylaxis and treatment of Neurasthenia, we have judged it
necessary to describe the affection, and to point out the various forms, both the commoner and the rarer, that it is clinically found to assume.
Again, prophylaxis presupposes a knowledge of ail the possible causes of the affection ; hence it has been necessary for us to make a short study — or at least a detailed enumeration — of these causes.
Prevent neurasthenia with hygienic measures
Hygienic measures, which would suffice to prevent Neurasthenia if they were rigorously
applied and, we must add, if they were always applicable, usually suffice also to cure it when the complaint is capable of cure. Without wishing to abolish treatment by medicines, we venture to say that on the whole more harm than good has been done by drugs both to those threatened by Neurasthenia and to those already attacked.
If we could draw up a schedule of the evil results of so-called tonic and ” building-up ” medicines, of the different hypnotics, in short of all the pharmaceutical products that overload the more or less well-advised forms of treatment that have entered into daily use, we should ask if neurasthenics were the debtors or the victims of medicine.
Was it not Montaigne who said that the physicians of his time, to avoid curing the brain
at the expense of the stomach, injured the stomach and made the brain worse,” by their
confused multitude of discordant drugs “? Do not let us imitate the bad practitioners of that
age, and do not let us forget that a medical man would be ignorant of his duties if he believed them to be limited to prescribing medicines; good moral and physical hygiene, a well-conceived dietary, the action of suggestion in the shape of advice and encouragement, these as a rule do more for the neurasthenic than complex prescriptions that are often useless and sometimes harmful. This is enough to show the interest presented by the subject on which we are now about to enter.
The following are the principal works or complete descriptions
to which Neurasthenia has given origin.
Beard, A Practical Tnalise on Nervous Exhaustion, its Causes, Symptoms and Sequences, New York, 1880. — Axenfeld et Huchard, Traite des Nevroses ; Paris, 1883. — Charcot, Lemons cliniques, and Passim. — Ziemssen, Die Neurastltcnie und Hire Behandlting, Leipzig,
1887 (translated for the New Sydenham Soc._, 1894). — Bouveret, La Nenrasthenie, 2nd ed.; J. B. Bailliere, Paris, 1881. — Mathieu, Neurasthcuie, collection Charcot-Dcbove. — Levillain,La Neurasthcnie, Paris, 1891. — Dutil, art. Nenrasthenie, in Traite de mcdecine,Paris, 1894. — F. Miiller, Handbuch der Neuraslhenie, Leipzig, 1893.
— Gilles de la Touretle, Lcs etals neurastlieniques, J. B. Bailliere, Paris, 1900. — Maurice de Fleury, Les grands symptomes neurasilteniques, F. Alcan, Paris, 1901. — Brissaud, art. Neurasthenie, in Brouardel and Gilbert’s Traite de mcdecine, Paris, 1902. — Godlewski, Les neurasthenics, Maloine, Paris, 1904.
[The almost classical work by Dr. Weir Mitchell — Fat and Blood, 8th ed., 1900 — should be mentioned. Other monographs in English are On Brain and Nerve Exhaustion by Dr. T. S. Dowse, 4th ed., 1894, and Clinical Lectures on Neurasthenia by Dr. T. D. Savill, 3rd
There are also very instructive articles by Prof. Dana in the Twentieth Century Practice of Medicine, vol. x, and by Prof. Clifford Allbutt in his System of Medicine, vol. viii. The important papers by Playfair in Brit. Med. Journ, 1882, and Page in Med. Times and Gazette, 1885 (reprinted) must also be referred to. — Trans.]
Source: G. Ballet: Neurasthenia, publisher London: H. Kimpton, 1911