MECHANICAL IRRITATION AS THE CAUSE OF PERVERSION.
Painful as this whole subject must ever be, it is nevertheless the duty of parents and all those who have the care of the young, to understand fully that most important work, the intelligent prevention of evil to those under their care. Mothers are not only the natural educators of little children, but their guar dians in the highest sense; and none in the world should be more clearly intelligent in all that pertains to the well-being of the developing minds and bodies of children. In speaking to mothers of the habit seen sometimes in the very young, of constantly touching the generic organs, and of its disturbing influence upon the nervous system with excitable and sensitive children, they have very often said, "I never thought so slight a thing could be wrong; what harm can it do? " The answer to this question has been fully given from a physiological standpoint, but a few illus trations from actual life may make the connection between the mental and mechanical causes of dis eased action more clear, so that the danger, better understood, may be more perfectly guarded against.
Mechanical irritation may be instituted in various ways, as friction with the hand, the touch of other children, titillation with a stick, feather, or any ob ject whatever, sliding down banisters, climbing a pole, sliding against the corners of chairs or benches, or any touch which awakens the sensibility of the nerves in that part of the body. One of the worst cases, illustrating hapless ignorance, was a lad of eleven years, who showed a great degree of muscular debility, nervous exhaustion, and feeble digestion, and not a little evidence of actual brain disturbance, urinalysis showing a heavy loss of the phosphates. From a mere child, in his mother's room, he had the habit of throwing himself on his face upon a couch, and with one foot upon the floor, and the genetic or gans upon the edge of the couch, he would, for an hour at a time, or till he fell asleep, push himself slowly backward and forward, speaking of it always as his way of resting. I found he had, in very early child hood, realized a pleasurable sensation which increased, varying at intervals, and for the last year there had been seminal secretions when there was unusual ex citement. Of course, as the nervous currents and blood were more and more directed towards the pel vis, congestion and a secretion (premature by two or three years) were the consequences. In very young .children no secretion exists until puberty, unless from inflammation, or from some strumous condition, as in scrofulous affections; but in the case of this lad it was caused by the unnatural local excitation. It appears strange that so grave a fault should occur daily under the eyes of one or both parents for sev eral years, and neither suspect any wrong. The boy
protested that he had iio idea he was doing injury to himself — was the only child of respectable parents — had inherited a tolerably balanced organization, and when made fully aware of the nature and certain evil results of the habit, as also the precious trust God had given to his keeping in his opening manhood, he bravely seconded the general regime necessary to his recovery. This plan was largely hygienic, — ac tive employment in the open air, as far as possible, giving him interest in varying and rational occupa pations much of the time. Reading and quiet games filled the evenings, with such pleasant social and in tellectual entertainment as a small village afforded. Of course the weak and fretted nerves of the pro creative system were put to rest as far as possible, not to be roused by thought or mechanical irritation. At fifteen he was fairly master of himself, as he was proud to assert, this triumph having been attained at an expenditure and growth of moral muscular power worthy of a maturer manhood.
A child of three years was brought to me by his parents for consultation, who for more than a year had the habit, when lying upon his face upon the floor, of fixing his toes and pushing himself more or less rap idly backward and forward. After a time, what they supposed to have been mere childish play became a common occurrence, and he grew nervous, with a per: ceptible diminution of vigor, and interest in the accus tomed active sports of childhood. At these times his mother, in going to him, found him usually, after a few moments of this kind of supposed play, much excited and in a profuse perspiration. Both parents were healthful, of excellent character, and had enjoyed the best intellectual advantages.
This little boy was the grandson of a college presi dent, was a finely developed child physically, but had a larger brain than was usual at his age, which made him more liable to injury from any form of nervous disturbance, and no other could well be greater than this.
The parents were much in doubt as to the nature or result of these unusual manifestations in so young a child, though the father asked if it were possible that any erotic sensibility could have anything to do with it. Watching did not reveal any physical cause for this form of excitement, and the conclusion seemed most just, that within two years the little patient, in moving about upon the floor, had accident ally experienced the tickling sensation which lured him to the repetition of the peculiar method of me chanical irritation. With proper care, recovery fol lowed gradually upon cessation of the habit.