The tendency of the age is to drive. We drive our own children to school; there they are driven for hours by one study after another; even when they come home they bring lessons with them—the lovers of study and over-conscientious because they want to do them, and the laggards because they must, if they are to keep up with their classes. If the parents of such children are not careful, they (the children) soon learn to worry; they are behind-hand with their lessons; they didn’t get the highest mark yesterday; the class is going ahead of them, etc., etc., until mental collapse comes.
For worrying is the worst kind of mental overwork. As Dr. Edward Livingston Hunt, of Columbia University, New York, said in a paper read by him early in 1912, before the Public Health Education Committee of the Medical Society of the County of New York:
There is a form of overwork, exceedingly common and exceedingly disastrous—one which equally accompanies great intellectual labors and minor tasks. I allude to worry. When we medical men speak of the workings of the brain we make use of a term both expressive and characteristic. It is to cerebrate. To cerebrate means to think, to reason, and to reach conclusions; it means to concentrate and to work hard. To think, then, is to cerebrate. To worry is to cerebrate intensely.
Worry is overwork of the most disastrous kind; it means to drive the mental machinery at an unreasonable and dangerous rate. Worry gives the brain no rest, but rather keeps the delicate cells in constant and continuous action. Work is wear; worry is tear. Overwork, mental strain, and worry lead to a diminution of nerve force and to a prostration of the vital forces and causes a degeneracy of the blood vessels of the brain.
Exhaustion, another name for fatigue, may show itself either in the form of physical collapse, so that the patient lacks resistance, and, becoming anemic and run down, falls a prey to any and every little ailment, or in the form of mental collapse. An exhausted brain then gives way to depression, to fears, and to anxiety.
The vast majority of nervous breakdowns are avoidable; they are the result of our own excesses and of the disregard we show toward the ordinary laws of health and hygiene; they are the results of the tremendous demands which are made upon us by modern life; they are the result of the strenuous life.
From this analysis, made by an expert, it is evident that worry and nervous prostration are but two points on the same circle. Nervous prostration causes worry, and worry causes nervous prostration. Those who overwork their bodies and minds—who drive themselves either with the cares of business, the amassing of wealth, yielding to the demands of society, the cravings of ambition, or the pursuit of pleasure, are alike certain to suffer the results of mental overwork.