Melancholia

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Melancholia (from Greek μελαγχολία - melancholia "sadness, lit. black bile"[1]), also lugubriousness, from the Latin lugere, to mourn; moroseness, from the Latin morosus, self-willed, fastidious habit; wistfulness, from old English wist: intent, or saturnine, (see Saturn), in contemporary usage, is a mood disorder of non-specific depression, characterized by low levels of both enthusiasm and eagerness for activity.

In a modern context, "melancholy" applies only to the mental or emotional symptoms of depression or despondency; historically, "melancholia" could be physical as well as mental, and melancholic conditions were classified as such by their common cause rather than by their properties.[2]

Similarly, melancholia in ancient usage also encompassed mental disorders which might now be classed as schizophrenias or bipolar disorders.

Contents

History

The name "melancholia" comes from the old medical belief of the four humours: disease or ailment being caused by an imbalance in one or other of the four basic bodily liquids, or humours. Personality types were similarly determined by the dominant humour in a particular person. According to Hippocrates, melancholia was caused by an excess of black bile,[3] hence the name, which means 'black bile', from Ancient Greek "μέλας" (melas), "dark, black",[4] + "χολή" (kholé), "bile";[5] a person whose constitution tended to have a preponderance of black bile had a melancholic disposition. See also: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric.

Melancholia was described as a distinct disease with particular mental and physical symptoms in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Hippocrates, in his Aphorisms, characterized all "fears and despondencies, if they last a long time" as being symptomatic of melancholia.[6]

In the medieval Arab world, the Arab psychologist Ishaq ibn Imran (d. 908), known as "Isaac" in the West, wrote an essay entitled Maqala fi-l-Malikhuliya, in which he discovered a type of melancholia: the "cerebral type" or "phrenitis". He carried out a diagnosis on this mental disorder, describing its varied symptoms. The main clinical features he identified were sudden movement, foolish acts, fear, delusions and hallucinations.[7][verification needed]

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