MELANCHO'LIA, as' a disease, is the exaggeration of the natural and legitimate feel ings of grief, despondency, and apprehension, which become morbid where the emotion is without a cause, disproportioned to the actual cause, or so intense as to disturb and destroy the exercise of the other mental powers. This dejection and suffering is found. associated witli exalted aensations, or delusions as to the personal or physical condition IA the individual, which originate hi habitually cherishing certain impressions, .n fixing the ,..tte.--tion :men certain vital processes, which may be unhealthy. or become so by the very -_oncent-ation of 'thought bestowed upon them. The patient lives ir fear of death,.
in the conviction that he is differently or more exquisitely constructed than tho.se around; that he labors under some foul or fatal disease; that he is destitute of strength or comeliness. This has been regarded as hypochondriacal melancholia—the maladie anglaise, and affects the opening of life. Similar feelings are called forth in reference to the social position. There arises a dread of poverty and want. The victim is haunted by imaginary debts, obligations, peculations. He feels incapable of extricating himself. The poor, as well as the rich, entertain such doubt and dread. They starve, in order to husband their resources. This affection prevails at maturity—at the period of greatest activity and usefulness. Toward the decline of life--although encountered at every age —morbid depression assumes the form of religious anxiety, despair, remorse. -Moral statistics show that among the inhabitants of northern Europe the number of eases of melancholia exceeds those of mania; and it has been supposed that the rudiments of tho malady may be detected in the original character, the temperament, and the habits of the race, as well as in the climate, domestic condition, and diet, by which these are modified. Defective blood nutrition, or. antemia, appears to be the physical state -with
which the great majority of cases of melancholia are connected, and to which all modes of treatment are directed. Powerful and permanent and depressing moral emotions act as effectively in arresting healthy digestion ancl alimentation, as the use of injudicious food, or the use of proper nourishment under circumstances such as the respiration of impure .ir, or indulgence in intemperate or degraded tendencies, which render assimila tion impossible. The aspect of the melancholiac corroborates the view of inanition and exhaustion. The surface is pale, dry, cold, attenuated, even insensible; the muscles are rigid; the frame is bent; the eyes sunk, and fixed or flickering; the lips parched and colorless. There is a sense of exhaustion or pain, or impending dissolution. It has been remarked, that in proportion to the intensity of the internal agony is there an obtuseness or ancestliesia to wounds or external injuries. Such an immunity gives in lunatics an indifference to the most grievous forms of suffering, and may explain the conduct of many reputed martyrs and even criminals under punishment.—Haslam, Observations 79n Madness and Melancholy; Esquirol, Maladies lifentale,s, t.i. p. 398; Crichton, _Inquiry into Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement.