Curious minds find many encrypted riddles in Lewis Carroll’s books
Photo: frame of the film.
Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, is known to have been a mathematician. And curious minds find in his book many encrypted riddles, mathematical riddles.
But these books contain not only food for thought, but also many different psychiatric diagnoses. Young Lewis’s uncle was a warden in mourning houses, that is, mental hospitals. And in the evening, at family dinners, he would talk fascinatingly about the behavior of patients. These stories then formed the basis of the characters of the heroes of the books.
So if, reading these fascinating stories, you sometimes caught yourself thinking “some kind of madhouse”, then you were not far from the truth!
And psychiatry students read these books with the interest of researchers, as if they were textbooks. And they find many different diagnoses.
Let’s list some of them.
ALICE HAS A BOUQUET OF SYMPTOMS
The main topic of investigation of psychiatrists is, of course, the main character himself. She has many different symptoms. In her due time, these symptoms and diagnoses were discussed in great detail by graduate student Holly Barker. But it all comes down to one thing: the poor girl suffered from special childhood migraines.
“Oh bye my legs, I’ll send you shoes in packages,” something like Alice thinks as she “opens up like a spyglass” and grows larger. The distorted perception of the size of one’s own body is called metamorphopsia. This is how some children with migraine feel. This syndrome was described in 1955 by the British psychiatrist John Todd. And he even named it after the main character – Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Another symptom of this syndrome is a distorted perception of the size of surrounding objects (remember the huge mushroom on which the silkworm sits?).
Depersonalization is also a symptom of migraine aura (or sometimes epileptic seizures). When Alice tries to remember to remind herself (“Yesterday it was me, but now who am I?”), she understands that something is wrong with her, that the reality that surrounds her is clearly absurd, but even so she continues moving towards reality. objective, not to fall into hysteria and psychosis. This is exactly what Dr. Todd’s young patients felt. Incidentally, these symptoms led other psychiatrists to believe that Alice had obvious schizophrenia, that is, a split personality (“it seems to be me, but it seems like it’s not me at all”).
The fact that Alice had migraines (as, in fact, the author himself, Lewis Carroll) is evidenced by other symptoms described in the book. For example, the fear of bright light.
The migraine aura often precedes migraine attacks or appears on its own. Migraine attacks of this type occur only in childhood, often disappear on their own in adolescence.
MAD HATTER SYNDROME
In the 19th century there was a very famous disease: mercurialism. This is chronic mercury poisoning with constant exposure to metal vapors or its compounds for a long time, not just weeks, but years. This syndrome, in fact, was observed in hatters who used mercury to treat wool, soften it, and then turn it into felt. The work rooms were tiny, poorly ventilated, and mercury vapors accumulated and poisoned the hatters.
All the symptoms described by Carroll – hallucinations, temporary loss of orientation, tremors of the hands and feet, emotional instability – were indeed observed in the hatters. Now such symptoms point to bipolar disorder (when a perfectly adequate person suddenly falls into insanity) or even schizophrenia. But back in the 19th century in England there was even a saying “mad as a hatter.”
Humpty Dumpty has PROSOPAGNOSIA
Saying goodbye to Alice, Humpty nonchalantly says that if they meet tomorrow, he won’t recognize her. This is a rather serious neurological disease – the inability to remember faces. Caused by a head injury (Humpty kept falling) or a stroke. And it can manifest in childhood due to some genetic abnormalities.
The meaning of this disease is not only that a person cannot remember faces, and sometimes even sees how the interlocutor’s facial features change before his eyes. People with prosopagnosia do not rely on facial features, but rather on distinctive features, such as hairstyle, glasses, moles, and the sound of the voice.
By the way, actor Brad Pitt said that he only has this rare disease, so he does not recognize acquaintances and friends. True, only friends believe that he is just an egocentric and impudent.
ANXIETY RABBIT, NARCOLEPTIC SONIA AND PARANOID RED QUEEN
Other characters are no less strange and crazy. For example, the White Rabbit, after which Alice jumped into the hole, clearly suffers from an anxiety disorder: he needs to run all the time, move, because he does not get carried away with the feeling that he is always late.
The red queen, with her desire to cut off heads, is obviously paranoid with a persecution mania (when it seems like everyone is threatening her with something).
The White Knight is a melancholic person with coordination problems. Poet, inventor of strange things, very sensitive to everything beautiful. And at the same time he falls off his horse, thinking of his own.
And Sonya, who can sleep in any position and in the most uncomfortable position, even in a kettle, clearly suffers from narcolepsy – bouts of uncontrollable daytime sleepiness and suddenly falling asleep.
In other words, Carroll’s books are not just an amazing fairy tale, but, in fact, a textbook for psychiatrists. But is it worth diagnosing your favorite heroes if their adventures make you forget the reality around you for a while? And Alice’s behavior is an example of the fact that even in the most absurd situation, you need to remain yourself. And don’t forget to bow down.