WANT OF APPETITE AND INDIGESTION
The mind of the child is so unstable and yet so highly developed, that symptoms of nervous disturbance are more frequent and of greater intensity than in later life. Only rarely and in exceptional cases do certain symptoms, common in childhood, persist into adult life or appear there for the first time, and then usually in persons who, if they are not actually insane, are at least suffering from intense nervous strain. We have already mentioned the symptom of negativism and noted its occasional occurrence as an accompaniment of mental disorder in adult life, and its frequency among children who are irritable or irritated. Similarly, we may cite the digestive neuroses of adult life to explain the common refusal of food and the common nervous vomiting of the second year of life. Thus, for example, there exists in adult life a disturbance of the nervous system which is called “anorexia nervosa.” A boy of nineteen was brought to the Out-patient Department of Guy’s Hospital suffering from this complaint. He was little more than a skeleton, unable to stand, hardly able to sit, and weighing only four and a half stones. His mother, who came with him, stated that he had always been nervous, and that lately, after receiving a call to join the army as a recruit, his appetite, which had for some time been capricious, had completely disappeared. In spite of coaxing he resolutely refused all food, or took it only in the tiniest morsels, although at the same time it was thought that he sometimes took food “on the sly.” A careful examination showed absolutely no sign of bodily disease. He was admitted to a ward for treatment by hypnotic suggestion, but before this could be begun he endeavoured to commit suicide by setting fire to his bed.
A girl of twenty-four years of age had become almost equally emaciated. Constant vomiting had persisted for many years and had defied many attempts at cure. It had even been proposed to perform the operation of gastro-enterostomy in the belief that some organic disease existed. In suitable surroundings and with the energetic support of a good nurse, who spent much time and care in restoring her balance of mind, the vomiting ceased, and she gained over two stones in weight. Work was found for her in some occupation connected with the War, and she left the Nursing Home to undertake this, bearing with her four pounds which she had abstracted from the purse of another patient.