When staff did attempt to cure the patients, they followed the practices typical of the time period—purging and bloodletting, the most common. Other treatments included dousing the patient in either hot or ice-cold water to shock their minds back into a normal state. The belief that patients needed to choose rationality over insanity led to techniques aiming to intimidate. Blistering, physical restraints, threats, and straitjackets were employed to achieve this end. Powerful drugs were also administered, for example, to a hysterical patient in order to exhaust them.
Many asylums were crowded, hopeless places by the early 1900s, increasingly separated from the outside world. These isolated institutions became testing grounds for controversial and dangerous treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and lobotomy.
Lobotomy - A controversial surgical treatment to severe the nerves to the frontal lobe of the brain (responsible for attention, short-term memory and activities requiring planning and organization). It was used to treat severe mental illnesses but is now no longer used.
ECT- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), sometimes called ‘electroshock’, was one of the most controversial psychiatric treatments of the 20th century. It began in the 1930s, at a time when some psychiatrists in Europe and the US experimented with the drug metrazol to induce epileptic-like convulsions in schizophrenic patients.