If a person is full of sorrow he is discharging from his body through
the cracks in his eyelids various chemicals. The peculiarity of this
phenomenon is normally not regarded as being strange since the process
of crying is known to everybody since earliest childhood. - This secretion
In the case of melancholy, the sick person does not shed any tears.
In fact, with the appearance of tears you can expect a change in the
course of the illness.
Melancholia does not offer any hopes for a successful psychotherapeutical
treatment. Even though psychic stimuli may trigger the illness or may
even constitute the origin of the illness, there is no doubt nowadays
that in the case of melancholia there is also invariably a disorder
in the biochemistry.
The secretion of tears in grief must be regarded as a depoisoning
process; that is why it brings relief.
Melancholia is therefore an illness during the course of which paralyzed
secretion apparatus causes those chemicals that should be discharged
to continue circulating within the organism.
Tears are important in keeping the cornea and the conjunctiva humid,
in protecting them from irritations, and in mechanically removing, as
far as it is possible, foreign and irritating substances. Tears may
accompany laughing, yawning, coughing, vomiting, and sneezing. Furthermore,
tears may appear as a form of expression for the affections of grief,
rage, and joy.
Tears are also found in animals; but crying in animals has not been
proven so far, and it is generally accepted that only the human being
may secrete tears out of psychological motives.
R. Dubois(1) has extracted
from the lacrymal gland of a cow an enzyme, a catalyst, which he calls
lacrymase. When injected into guinea pigs these extracts cause spasmodic
twitching of the eye, convulsive motions of the muscles of the face,
and the secretion of tears. Dubois inferred, therefore, that the lachrymal
glands form a substance that causes motion of the facial muscles. According
to him, the formation of tears is the result of autointoxication. He
calls the hypothetical toxin lachrymaline.
Proteins which are found in tears are albumin and glubalin. Their
quantities vary.(2) (Arlt, Lerch
0.504, Fredrichs 0.08 - 0.1, Roetth 0.25 - 0.6 ). In his experiments
Roetth has caused a formation of tears through chemical and mechanical,
and also through psychological, stimuli. Charlton(3)
distinguishes two groups of tears, those rich in protein (the secretion
of which he determines to originate in the simpaticus) and those poor
in protein (the secretion of which he determines to originate in the
glossofaringius). (The tear fibres are believed to be in
the nervous lachrymalies; how they get there has not been determined
Weckers is of the opinion that the orbital part of the lachrymal gland
in the human being is solely responsible for the secretion of tears
in the act of crying. Weiss is of the opinion that there is no way of
determining specific organs for the reflectory and psychological secretion
According to Fleming and Allison there are chemical components in
the tear fluid which cause the formation of the specific precipitations.
With this short overview we want to clarify the state of the art in
In the case of the melancholic you not only find a lower secretion
of tears but also of the saliva and the gastric juices. We should, however
evaluate these phenomena differently since grief causes tears but quite
obviously not an increased secretion of gastric juices. This connection,
however, should not be left without consideration in experiments.
The appropriate way to treat melancholia is, therefore: to cause a
constant secretion of tears.
This is possible through the causation of conjunctivitis. Apart
from different methods, we would also propose to try and inject into
the veins a sour macerate taken from the mucous membrane of the duodenum
since these injections, according to Allesandro
(4), cause the scretion of tears. This is very important
insofar as - as mentioned earlier - also the gastric juices are connected
with the function of the lachrymal gland in the melancholic.
There is also justification for experiments to cause the secretion
of tears through the injection of tears since, as we have seen oftentimes,
a similar procedure nay cause a change in the biofuntions. This is done
according to the motto: similia similibus. There is still another
possibility that should be considered: there is a lack of secretion
of tears in the melancholic either because the necessary and appropriate
components are kept within the organism, or because these components
are not formed in suffiecient quantity. In the latter case injection
of tears would be recommended.
Even though we have reason to believe that tears which are caused
through external stimuli are not identical with those cause by psychological
stimuli, we may still assume that the stimulation of the lachrymal glands
may result in a recapturing of their psychological function. A report
on the course of the experiments will follow after a sufficient time.
- C. r. Acad. Sci 176
- Referiert nach Weiss.
- Amer. J. ophtalm., 4.
- Arch. ital. oftalm., 15.
First published in Wiener Medizinischen Wochenschrift,
(Nr. 21, 1933); translated from the German by Helfried Zrzavy, edited
by Duane Vorhees.