Sexual Neurasthenia

One great thing about studying in a medical library is that, while wandering through the stacks, you occasionally come across the most fantastic books. I was hiding away in some stacks to chat on the phone when this gem caught my eye: Sexual Neurasthenia, Its Hygiene, Causes and Symptoms and Treatment With a Chapter on Diet for the Nervous. The main author, George Beard, was apparently a mid-19th century neurologist who conflated a bunch of “maladies” into a single diagnosis called sexual neurasthenia, and then advocated electrocution as a cure-all. Even back then most doctors thought this sounded like quackery. Anyway, the book is full of unintentional hilarity, but thanks to the Google Books version I can include just this one:

The true way to treat seminal emissions when they are, or are supposed to be, more frequent than is consistent with health, is by a combination of sedative and tonic measures, designed to act both upon the genital organs and on the nervous system. The remedies that physicians now chiefly use for this purpose are ergot in its different forms, electricity locally and generally applied, iron, the zinc combination, bromide of camphor, lupulin, belladonna, digitalis, conium, gelsemium, and nux vomica, with the addition of passing the urethral sound, urethral electrode, rectal electrode, and the use of the cooling catheter.

Ergot? Rectal electrodes? Strychnine? Digitalis? That’s what I call serious fucking business.

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