Case Nine from Psychopathia Sexualis
By Richard von Krafft-Ebing
“He found it absurd, and did not repeat it”
F.J., aged nineteen, student; mother was nervous, sister epileptic. At the age of four, acute brain affections, lasting two weeks. As a child he was not affectionate, and was cold toward his parents; as a student he was peculiar, retiring, preoccupied with self, and given to much reading. Well-endowed mentally. Masturbation from his fifteenth year. Eccentric after puberty, with continual vacillation between religious enthusiasm and materialism — first studying theology, then natural sciences. At the university his fellow students took him for a fool. He read Jean Paul almost exclusively, and wasted his time. Absolute absence of sexual feeling toward the opposite sex. Once he indulged in intercourse, experienced no sexual feeling in the act, found it absurd, and did not repeat it. Without any emotional cause whatsoever, he often had thoughts of suicide. He made it the subject of a philosophical dissertation, in which he contended that it was, like masturbation, a justifiable act. After repeated experiments, which he made on himself with various poisons, he attempted suicide with fifty-seven grains of opium, but he was saved and sent to an asylum.
Patient was destitute of moral and social feelings. His writings disclosed incredible frivolity and vulgarity. His knowledge had a wide range, but his logic was peculiarly distorted. There was no trace of emotionality. He treated everything (even the sublime) with incomparable cynicism and irony. He pleaded for the justification of suicide with false philosophical premises and conclusions, and, as one would speak of the most indifferent affair, he declared that he intended to accomplish it. He regretted that his penknife had been taken from him. If he had it, he would open his veins as Seneca did — in the bath. At one time a friend had given him, instead of a poison as he supposed, a cathartic. Instead of sending him to the other world, it sent him to the bathroom. Only the Great Operator could eradicate his foolish and fatal idea with the scythe of death, etc.
The patient had a large, rhombic, distorted skull, with the left half of the forehead flatter than the right. The occiput was very straight. Ears far back, widely projecting, and the external meatus forming a narrow slit. Genitals very lax; testicles unusually soft and small.
The patient occasionally suffered from onomatomania. He was compelled to think of the most useless problems, give himself over to interminable, distressing and worrying thoughts, and become so fatigued that he was no longer capable of any rational thinking. After some months the patient was sent home unimproved. There he spent his time in reading and frivolities, and busied himself with the thought of founding a new system of Christianity, because Christ hd been subject to grand delusions and had deceived the world with miracles (!). After remaining at home some years, the sudden occurrence of a maniacal outbreak brought him back to the asylum. He presented a mixture of primordial delirium of persecution (Devil, Antichrist, persecution, poisoning, persecuting voices) and delusions of grandeur (Christ, redemption of the world), with impulsive, incoherent actions. After five months there was a remission of this intercurrent acute mental disease, and the patient then returned to the level of his original intellectual peculiarity and moral defect.