Candy Cures Catatonic Schizophrenia

March 3, 2011 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

Every once in a while I come across a jaw-dropper. This is one of those.

1952, Arkansas. Psychologist Henry Peters is working with patients at the Little Rock Veterans Hospital who suffer from what is known in that day as “catatonic schizophrenia.” They sit still and silent the day long, conscious and withdrawn. They are difficult to treat. Electroshock therapy is just about the best anyone can do, and we know that’s no picnic.

Dr. Peters has another approach. The most popular theory in the day is that catatonic schizophrenics are so beaten down by frustration and failure that they have just given up, hence the withdrawal and immobility. So Peters comes up with the idea of simple puzzles that even a catatonic schizophrenic can solve–success!

But why should the immobile patient bother even trying? We need an incentive, something really powerful, a reward at the end of the puzzle. What else but…CANDY! And just to be sure that the patients really are feeling the crave for sweet, Dr. Peters juices them up with insulin before the puzzle session. (Wait, he’s dosing them with insulin to make them crave candy? I guess Dr. Peters wasn’t carrying his copy of the Hippocratic Oath that day…)

Here is one patient getting his fudge treat:

Dr. Peters claimed success with this unconventional treatment. Out of ten patients in his group, two gained sufficient confidence from their candy puzzle triumphs that they were able to go outside the hospital, and one was released for further treatment at home.

“Incentives Help Insane,” LIFE Magazine 20 Oct 1952

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Ecstasy Candy Hearts? I doubt it. Oh Henry! Stuffed Tomatoes

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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