Glass delusion: the illusion of believing yourself to be very fragile

Throughout history, a large number of diseases have caused tremendous damage and damage to mankind and eventually disappeared over time. This is the case with the Black Death or the so-called Spanish flu. But not only did this happen with medical illnesses, but there was also mental suffering typical of a particular period or historical stage. An example of this is the so-called glass delusion or glass illusion, An alteration that we will discuss throughout this article.

    Delirium or glass illusion: symptoms

    It is called glass delirium or illusion, a typical and very common mental disorder of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance which is characterized by the presence of the delusional belief of being glass, Having the body itself the properties of it and especially its fragility.

    In this sense, it has remained fixed, persistent, unchanging despite the presence of evidence to the contrary and without any social consensus that the body itself was made of glass, extremely fragile and easily breakable.

    This belief went hand in hand with a high level of panic and fear, almost phobic, at the thought of breaking or breaking at the slightest blowAnd it is common to adopt attitudes such as avoiding physical contact with others, stepping away from furniture and corners, defecating standing up to avoid breaking or tying pillows, and wearing reinforced clothing with them to avoid straining. possible damage when sitting or moving.

    The disorder in question may include the feeling that the whole body is made of glass or include only specific parts, such as the limbs. In some cases, the internal organs were even considered to be glass, and the mental suffering and fear of these people was very high.

      A common phenomenon in the Middle Ages

      As we have said, this disorder appeared in the Middle Ages, a historical stage when glass began to be used in objects such as stained glass or the first lenses.

      One of the oldest and best known cases is that of the French monarch Charles VI, Nicknamed “the beloved” (since he apparently fought the corruption introduced by his regents) but also “the madman” because he ended up suffering from various psychiatric problems, including psychotic episodes (ending in the life of ‘one of his courtiers) and among them the delirium of glass. The monarch wore lined clothing to prevent damage from possible falls and stood still for long hours.

      It was also the disorder of Princess Alexandra Amélie of Bavaria, And many other nobles and citizens (usually upper classes). Composer Tchaikovsky also exhibited symptoms reminiscent of this disorder, fearing that his head would fall to the ground while conducting the orchestra and break it and even physically restrain it to prevent it.

      In fact, it was such a frequent condition that even René Descartes mentioned it in one of his works and it is even the condition suffered by one of the characters of Miguel de Cervantes in his “The Stained Glass Window of the ‘lawyer”.

      Records indicate a high prevalence of this disorder, especially in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, especially between the 14th and 17th centuries. However over time and as glass became more common and less mythical (it was initially considered to be something exclusive and even magical), this disorder would decrease in frequency until it practically disappeared from 1830.

      Cases still exist today

      Glass delirium was a delirium, as we have said, which experienced its maximum expansion throughout the Middle Ages and apparently ceased to exist around 1830.

      However, a Dutch psychiatrist named Andy Lameijin found a report of a 1930s patient who had the delusional belief that his legs were glass and that even the slightest blow could fail, generating any approach or possibility of a big blow. prejudice

      After reading this case, the symptoms clearly resemble those of Medieval Disorder, the psychiatrist investigated similar symptoms and he discovered different isolated cases of people suffering from a similar delirium.

      However, he also found a living and current case at the very center where he worked, at the Leiden Endegeest Psychiatric Hospital: a man who claimed to feel made of glass or glass after having suffered an accident.

      Nevertheless, in this case, a differential character compared to the others existed, more focused on the quality of the transparency of the glass than on that of the fragility: The patient said he could appear and disappear from the sight of others, making him feel in the patient’s own words that “I am here, but I am not, like glass.”

      It should be noted, however, that glass delusion or delusion is still considered a historical mental problem and can be seen as an effect or part of other disorders, such as schizophrenia.

      Theories about their causes

      Explaining a mental disorder that is virtually nonexistent today is extremely complex, but through the symptoms, some experts have speculated in this regard.

      In general, you would think that this disorder could have originated as a defense mechanism in people with high blood pressure and the need to show a certain social image, being a response to the fear of showing fragility.

      Its emergence and disappearance of the disorder are also associated with the evolution of the consideration of the material, and it is common that the themes on which the delusions and the various mental problems are linked are linked to the evolution and to the specific elements. and the most recent from each era.

      In the most recent case attended by Lameijin, the psychiatrist considered that a possible explanation for the disorder in this particular case was the need for research on privacy and personal space in the face of over-caring from the patient’s environment, the symptom comes in the form of a belief that being able to be transparent like glass is a way of trying to separate and maintain individuality.

      This conception of the current version of the disorder is derived from the anxiety generated by today’s society, which is extremely individualistic and appearance-centered and with a high level of personal isolation despite the existence of great communication systems. .

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cervantes, M. (2003). The Vidriera graduate. University of Salamanca Publishing.
      • Speak, G. (1990) A Strange Kind of Melancholy: Reflections on Glass Frenzy in Europe (1440-1680) History of Psychiatry; 1: 191-206.
      • Speak, G. (1990) “El licenciado Vidriera” and the glass men of modern Europe. The review of modern languages; 85 (4): 850-865.

      Leave a Comment