This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
It is principally by excessive indulgence that elder men bring about nervous maladies. With them the strictest moderation, often absolute continence, is necessary if they would prolong their lives, and avoid numberless physical miseries. The effects of undue indulgence at this period of life, vary according to the temperament of the individual. Men of a nervous temperament, are most liable to epileptic or like seizures affecting the brain and nerves; those of a sanguine temperament, run the risk of hemorrhage ; those of a bilious temperament, of some derangement of the digestive organs.
A latent predisposition to various diseases lurks in the constitution of very many. This predisposition becomes active under the influence of the depressing effect of venereal excess. In this way we may account for many disorders of the mind, of the heart, and of the lungs, which suddenly, as it were, develop themselves. When there exists in the economy, any organ or function which is diseased or feeble, it is upon this that the evil results fix themselves.
Any part of the body may become disordered, as the direct consequence of libidinous excess. Thus, an experienced physician, Prof. A. P. Dutcher, M. D., of Cleveland, has found that even in the prime of life, immoderation in the marital relation is a frequent cause of an obstinate form of chronic bronchitis. He says in one of his lectures: "In looking over a list of fifty cases of chronic bronchitis, which have fallen under my care during the last six years, I find that ten of them have been attributed to this cause. And they were mostly individuals in middle life, the period when the sexual propensities are the most vigorous, and prompt to the most unlimited indulgence. You will occasionally treat a patient for a long time, who is suffering from an ordinary attack of chronic bronchitis, and after exhausting your stock of therapeutics, you will wonder that he does not recover. You are well-assured that the diagnosis is correct. He assures you that his habits are all right, that your prescriptions are faithfully attended to, and there is no improvement. Indeed, you may treat him as long as you please, and he will not be cured, until you expose the secret source of his malady, and compel him to abandon it. After treating a very intelligent patient for this disease a long time, I remarked to his wife one day, that it was exceedingly strange there was no improvement in his case, I could not see that he was any better than when he first came under my care, and I began to fear that there was something about his case I did not understand. ' Sir!' said she with great emphasis, ' my husband is a perfect animal. His sexual excesses I fear will be the death of him. If you could do something to make him more moderate in this particular, I think all would be well.' I took the hint, lectured him upon the evils of his habit, and ordered not only moderation but total abstinence. He followed my advice, and the lady's prediction was speedily verified."
Epilepsy, nervous tremblings, convulsions and various forms of paralysis are, as we have seen, sometimes the consequence of habits of excess, particularly in those who have passed the prime of life. Many diseases of the heart and brain, and numerous affections of the skin, are also often engendered and continued in the same way. It is only by recognizing these facts, that proper means of personal prevention and cure can be instituted.
At the same time it must be borne in mind, that a tendency to venereal excess and onanism is sometimes the result and not the cause of epilepsy, and other nervous tremblings. Inordinate desire may be the accompaniment, and the earliest sign of brain disease. At the outset of the disease, the unhappy patient may be conscious of, and capable of controlling, to a great extent, these morbid, and to him distressing promotings, which threaten to rule him. Dr. Echeverria, of New York city, in his recent work on epilepsy, records a striking illustration of these remarks, in the case of a patient affected with this disease, "superinduced by mental over-work, who, pressed by any inquiry, wrote to me a history of his case, with the following about his feelings : ' I would not weary you with the vain confession of prayers and re-boivcs of one sinning, knowing the while how he sins, but yet, finding himself led to the act without any intention or force to resist it. You may believe me or not; as for myself, I am unable to account for this venery that overcomes my whole being, as anything but an evil result of my disease. If this avowal offers no other moral, it presents that of which you need not to be often reminded in the practice of your pro, fession - how lightly we regard the blessings of health - and, considering the self-abuse through which I pass, I think that I may say with the Psalmist: "How fearfully and wonder-fully are we made."'
"Nothing remains to be added to this description characteristic of an epileptic, and of the evil impulse and inability of the patient, to carry out any course to repudiate it."
Among the nervous diseases originating in the reproductive organs syphilis of the nervous system calls for some notice here. Many close observations on this subject have been made within the last few years which leave no doubt that the brain and the whole nervous organization are liable to be affected by this subtle poison. Severe headache, epileptic convulsions, and even paralysis may be caused in this way during any period of constitutional syphilis. Prof. Van Buren, of New York, has recently published a series of cases of the nervous forms of syphilis, which bring into prominence many practical points hitherto not sufficiently heeded. Paralysis, epilepsy, and mental derangement were the symptoms presented by these cases. Enfeeblement of the intelligence and loss of memory are common forms of mental disturbance noticed. Whether insanity is ever of syphilitic origin, is a question still mooted. The belief has been gaining ground among English and German physicians having charge of mental diseases, that such is the case. However it may be as to actual insanity, there are too many cases on record to permit of any scepticism as to the possibility of serious impairment of the intellect being the frequent effect of this animal poison. The question has recently been asked, " Does the presence of the syphilitic taint in the system ever so enfeeble the intellect as to render the subject less capable of mental exertion than he was before he acquired the disease, without at the same time giving rise to intellectual eccentricities or loss of memory sufficiently noticeable to disclose his mental condition to his associates ?" Prof. Van Buren, the propounder of this query, feels inclined to answer it himself in the affirmative.