Psychiatry in ancient Egypt

Sep 23, 2010

Psychiatry in ancient Egypt

Psychiatric diseases had their share in ancient Egyptian medicine. Depression was described as: “fever in the heart”, “dryness of the heart”, “falling of the heart”, “debility of the heart” and “kneeling of the mind”. The heart and mind were synonymous.

Hysterical disorders were described in the Kahun Papyrus as:

“the woman painted in her teeth and jaws, she knows not her mouth” and “a woman who loves bed, she does not rise, and does not shake it”.

The treatment was prescribed in the same papyrus, not too different than those applied nowadays. Psychotherapy was also applied by “incubation” or “temple sleep”, were a night was passed in a court of a temple. The temple at the island of Philae (Elephantine) was a center of sleep treatment. Dreams received during that period were interpreted in a psycho-religious way. This was conducted by divine healers, and enhanced by the temple atmosphere and the confidence in the supernatural powers of the deity.

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