This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
This is a condition so exceedingly variable in character as to be very difficult of description, yet so common that few are unaware of its nature. It may perhaps be said to be a morbidly sensitive or irritable condition of the nervous system. A person who is nervous, is generally timid, being startled by the slightest noise or unusual circumstance. The unexpected appearance of a friend, the receipt of sudden news, or the occurrence of anything outside of the usual routine, is likely to occasion trembling and perhaps a considerable degree of prostration. Nervous people are generally harassed with apprehensions, and imaginary difficulties; the little annoyances of life, which in health pass unnoticed, appear in a greatly exaggerated light.
Irritability of temper, and a disposition to complain, find fault and scold, are among the features of nervousness. In some people it assumes a form which is sometimes termed fidgets. The patient is unable to sit still or remain in any one position for any considerable length of time. If he sits, he is constantly moving his feet and twisting about in his chair. If he stands talking to a friend, he changes his position every few seconds. When he goes to bed, he finds it difficult to lie still long enough to get asleep, and general restlessness and disquiet keep him in constant motion.
Nervousness is a symptom which accompanies a great variety of diseases. Though generally looked upon as of trifling importance, it is really a difficulty worthy of serious attention. A person whose nervous system is in a healthy condition is never nervous. One of the most common causes of nervousness is some disorder of digestion. All forms of dyspepsia are characterized, by nervousness of a greater or lesser degree; and in nervous dyspepsia it is one of the most prominent symptoms. An inactive condition of the liver, constipation of the bowels, and in females disease of the womb and ovaries, are morbid conditions in which nervousness is prominent. The use of tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcoholic liquors, are each and all responsible for a very large share of the nervousness which prevails at the present day. Sedentary habits, novel-reading, loss of sleep, dissipation, sexual excesses, and all causes which depress the nervous system are causes of nervousness.
As nervousness is only a symptom, the first business of an individual suffering from it should be to ascertain its cause. When this is done, injurious influences should be at once removed, and in a majority of cases this is all that is required. When the difficulty depends upon some local or general disease, the morbid condition from which it arises should receive proper attention.
General tonic treatment, especially the use of electricity, massage, and tepid sponge baths, are among the best measures of treatment. Special attention should be given to the diet. It should be unstimulating in character, condiments of various kinds being wholly avoided. As a general rule, meat should be taken in very small quantities, the less, the better, provided the patient has an appetite for other food and is able to digest fruits and grains. A sufficient amount of exercise should be taken in the open air each day, and the patient should have abundant opportunity for rest and recreation.