Skip to main content

The Religious Sentiment in Epileptics

  • James C. Howden (a1)

In the following observations I propose to describe a feature in the mental condition of Epileptics, which, to the best of my knowledge, has not attracted that attention to which its frequency entitles it. I refer to the exaltation of the religious sentiment. Irritability, suspicion, impulsive violence, egotism, strong homicidal propensities are among the most commonly observed characteristics in the insane epileptic; but in strange contradiction with these we very frequently find combined a strong devotional feeling, manifesting itself, it may be, in simple piety or in decided religious delusions. I do not pretend that the forms of religious insanity to be afterwards noticed are peculiar to epilepsy, but they are very frequently found in connection with it, and, I believe, I have only to describe a few illustrative cases to bring to your recollection numerous others which have occurred in your own experience. The causes which combine to develope a devotional frame of mind in Epileptics are probably numerous. In congenital cases or those arising from diseases of childhood education no doubt exercises a powerful influence. The epileptic child is necessarily less able to join in the amusements and occupations of healthy children, and a large share of his time and attention may be devoted at home to religious instruction. The mysterious nature of the disease, the consciousness of infirmity and helplessness developes a craving for sympathy in the epileptic which we rarely see in other lunatics. In the wards and airing-courts of our asylums, epileptics may be distinguished from their fellow-patients by the fact that they are generally found associating in little groups of twos or threes. They sympathize with each other, lean on each other for help in the time of trouble, and however much they exhibit violence and viciousness to others, they rarely attack each other. Along with this desire for sympathy, the epileptic is mercifully endowed with strong hope. He is always getting over his trouble, he thinks the turns are less severe, and will tell you perhaps the day before a fatal seizure that he thinks he will have no more fits. We all know how much hope has helped the physician in his efforts to combat this disease with a whole battery of drugs, each of which in its turn seems for a time to promise success, only too surely to fail in the end. This craving for sympathy finds a deep response in the highest development of hope—religion; and the sufferings of this life are assuaged by the assurance of sympathy and aid from heaven, and of a blessed future where suffering and sorrow are no more.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 2 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 3 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 19th February 2018 - 19th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

The Religious Sentiment in Epileptics

  • James C. Howden (a1)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *