Alice in Neverland, second rabbithole to the right (hermione_like) wrote in little_details,
Alice in Neverland, second rabbithole to the right

Treatment for schizophrenia in 1700s-1800s England

Story Background: I’m writing a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. It’s going to take place in a made-up country but the setting is more or less based on 1700s-1800s England. What I really want to do is write a retelling that doesn’t involve talking animals or anything fantastical and make everything more realistic. Because of that, the character of the Mad Hatter will actually be suffering from a mental illness—schizophrenia, more specifically formal thought disorder. (I know the phrase “Mad as a hatter” is based on the mercury poisoning from dealing with making felt for the hats but for the purposes of the story, he needs to be suffering from something since before becoming a hatter.)

More background: The Hatter lives with his friend (the March Hare) and friend’s sister (Dormouse) and run their own hat and wig shop. (Wig-> hair->hare, get it? heh) Anyway, they both know he’s sick but don’t want him taken away and put in the local Bedlam-like mental institution. Instead, they go to a (chemist? doctor? though I suppose a doctor would be more expensive back then as they’re not exactly rich) and get pills for him to take to calm him down and kind of make the symptoms go away. The pills sort of do their job but not exactly since they had to semi-lie to the chemist/doctor about what was wrong with the Hatter since they don’t want him committed.

At one point in the story, I would like Alice to accidentally take some of his pills. (They tell her he just has really bad headaches and when she gets one, she thinks his pills will help.)

Edit: (My apologies for not clarifying myself on this point.) I didn't want him addicted to anything (like opium) because it didn't fit with everything else that's going on in the story. In fact, while the symptoms of his illness aren't as bad as other people's can be, he actually refuses to take the medication at certain points, thinking he can fight whatever's wrong with him without the medicine. (However, the opium idea does give good ideas for the sequel. *g*)

Here are my questions:
1. Besides committing someone to a mental hospital, what kind of treatment was there for someone suffering from schizophrenia around 1700s-1800s England? Is it feasible that someone could get something related but not exact (like the pills he’d get) to at least help if not completely calm down his behavior?

2. Including today’s medication, what kind of side effects would a non-schizophrenic (like Alice) get from ingesting the medicine? I know there are several different kinds of medicine out there for this so I’m looking for any symptoms, if you would indeed experience anything.

Search results: I’ve tried using Google, Wikipedia, and even the Victorian London website in looking up schizophrenia and its treatment/medication/side effects but I haven’t found anything specific enough for my problem. (I realize that since this is taking place in a made-up country, I could just write what I already have in mind but I’d really like to get as close to realistic as possible, heh.)

Edit: Wow, thank you, everyone for all of your responses. It seems I might have to take a little bit of artistic license after all, but you've given me some great ideas for this part and other parts of the story, so thank you! :) (And feel free to keep commenting if you know anything else. *g*)
Tags: 1700s (no decades given), 1800s (no decades given), ~psychology & psychiatry: historical, ~psychology & psychiatry: schizophrenia

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