The end of World War I was great news for everyone, but especially for psychiatrists. Shouldn’t war have meant more need for psychiatrists, and peace meant less need? Actually, it was apparently the opposite.
They’re all back, it seems — that neurotic clan of wealthy women, ranging from hysterical debutantes to idle spinsters — from the victims of coddling husbands to “misunderstood wives.” Before the war their favorite indoor sport was symptoms. From April 1917 to November 1918, the neurosthenic market had a sensational slump. But the war is over — for the ladies, if not for prohibitionists.
One professional explained how the war had slashed demand for psychological services.
“Young girls,” said the doctor, “whose sole end in life had been to succeed in society and to make a ‘suitable match’ got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floors of canteens and hospitals. They had no time for introspection. Moreover, they had an emotional outlet, since patriotism is as intense an experience as religion.”
Interestingly, something similar may be happening currently. America is not at war, yet people seem to be more worried. Therapists have reported huge post-2016 spikes in people citing Donald Trump as a cause of their stress, worry, or psychological symptoms. (Those on the right call this “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”)
Nervous Invalids Back on a Peace Basis: War’s Compensatory Outlets Closed, the Neurologists’ Waiting Rooms Are Crowded Again, and the Sanitaria for the Newly and Idly Rich Are Booming
Published: Sunday, December 14, 1919