Certain patients with mental illness were more difficult to manage than others, and families often grew tired of coping with a disruptive member who perhaps drained them physically and emotionally. An asylum offered a wonderful solution to the problem, and some families were quick to leave a relative at one and never look back. (See last post.)
Diagnostic notes from admission records for the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum in Virginia offer a glimpse into the difficulties some families faced, while highlighting the fact that it was disruptiveness rather than insanity that probably drove at least a few commitments. Here are some diagnoses for males from 1887:
— Dissipated habits
— Absent minded, careless
— Noisy, filthy, quarrelsome
— Shows disposition to wander about, begging
— Habits dissipated, intoxicated by the person bringing him in (this patient was cured in less than three months)
Whether or not these patients truly had mental health issues or were just hard to get along with, their commitment likely resulted because the people around them had reached the limits of their patience. It would probably be safe to say that similar situations occurred in insane asylums around the country.