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.
THE CAUSES OF NEURASTHENIA
Neurasthenia is not, as Beard believed, a modern disease created by the intellectual and moral overpressure inherent in civilization and in the social life of our epoch. It is probable that it has existed in all times, like the other neuroses and psychoses to which depressing emotions and moral and physical shocks may give rise in man. It is certain in any case that the physicians of past centuries observed it, notably Galen, Stoll, Sydenham, and Robert Whytt (as is proved by many passages of their writings), although they could
not disengage it from the other neuropathic states with which it long remained confounded. But it is none the less true that at the present-day neurasthenia is a very common disease, and it even seems, as the majority of modern authors agree in recognizing, that it tends to grow more and more frequent. It is not without reason that it has been called ” the disease of the century,” And indeed this appellation seems to be justly applicable to it if it be understood thereby not that neurasthenia has appeared in our epoch as a newly-formed
morbid species, but that it has taken in our time a development that perhaps it never attained before. This would be, if it were proved, a remarkable fact in the natural history of the neurosis. It is not without interest, for the hygienist at least, to seek for its causes.
WHY AND HOW ONE BECOMES NEURASTHENIC
If our epoch is, as has been said, particularly fertile in neurasthenics, is it true that, as some have suggested, it owes this unhappy privilege to a sort of all-round degeneration which, following a law of regressive evolution, has invaded the latecome generations, the issue of peoples grown old or of worn-out races? Such an interpretation seems to us disputable, like the pessimistic judgment that certain authors have delivered, rather lightly, on the present generation. To convince oneself of this, it is enough to glance at the ethnographic distribution of neurasthenia. Certainly it is spread over France, Germany, Russia, all the peoples of old Europe; but its frequency is not less in America; it is even especially common there, so much so, that Beard (of New York), when he described it, thought he had discovered a morbid species peculiar to the country where he observed it, in one word, according to his own expression, “an American disease.” If neurasthenia has taken a considerable extension in the United States, a young country of recent civilization and peopled by a strong race, there is no ground for asserting that the development of this neurosis is to be imputed especially to a sort of senility or regressive evolution on the part of the nations it attacks. Besides, are we justified in holding that the peoples of Europe among which this affection is commonly observed, are on the road to physical and psychical decay? Is it true that the French and the Germans of our time are feebler than those who lived in the last century or even in the Middle Ages?
One may at least doubt this, if one thinks of the enormous burdens supported by the nations of contemporary Europe, and of the immense labour that they accomplish in all spheres of human activity. In reality neurasthenia is equally spread amongst all civilized peoples, in whom the struggle for existence keeps up an incessant and exaggerated exaltation of the functions of the nervous system. Hence it is extremely frequent among Americans, whose extraordinary activity is well known, and among the nations of Europe that lead the van of civilization. If it became particularly common in the course and at the end of the nineteenth century, that is because the conditions of social life were abruptly modified, both economically and politically.
Formerly the different social classes were penned, as it were, behind impassable barriers, and very few except the strong sought to leave the surroundings in which the chance of birth had placed them. To-day, laws and customs have abolished those barriers; everyone endeavors to raise himself higher than his ancestors; competition has increased; conflicts of interests and of persons have multiplied in all conditions of life; free course is given to ambitions that are often little justified ; a crowd of individuals impose on
their brains a work beyond their strength; then come cares and reverses of fortune, and the nervous system, under the wear and tear of incessant excitation, at last becomes exhausted. Thus, may be explained the increasing frequency of neurasthenia in our time, and its predominance in towns, among the middle and upper classes, in a word in all circumstances where intellectual culture or commercial and industrial traffic are carried to their highest degree of intensity.
These considerations enable us already to foresee that over-pressure, and especially cerebral overpressure, must figure in the front rank of the causes of neurasthenia.
Age. — The disease is not equally frequent at all ages. Very rare in childhood and old age, it affects adults by preference, that is to say it attacks man in the most laborious and most harassed period of his existence, from his twentieth to his fiftieth year.
There is however one form of neurasthenia that may be described as precocious neurasthenia, and that we have often observed. It makes its appear- hence about puberty or a little later, and seems to be connected with an exaggerated growth in height.
It is found in patients who are notably taller than the average, and whose girth of chest and volume of muscles are not proportionate to their height.
These neurasthenics almost always belong to the male sex. They are ” long lean ” persons, whose nervous system is endowed with excessive fragility and yields to the slightest shock.
G. Ballet: Neurasthenia, publisher London : H. Kimpton, 1911