ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Depression, Women And Mental Illness Through the Ages. Part One.

Updated on August 5, 2022
louiseelcross profile image

Brief history of women's role in society from the time of Plato to the dark ages and witch hunts. Aim to show history of depression in women

Plato | Source

Birth Of Civilisation, Women And Mental Illness

It is a fact that, in Britain, more women then men are treated for the symptoms of depression. 1 in 4 women as opposed to 1 in ten men will be treated for depression at some point in there life. In order to understand why more women are depressed, and more women are dependent on medication to make life bearable, we first must look at the history of women and their roles in society and how their roles developed, leaving them feeling depressed.

The philosophy of the Ancient Greek in their search for utopia, developed a world that did not take into account the needs of women. The main concern of the Ancient Greeks was the protection of society, and, as men were physically stronger they were assigned the duty of guardianship of the state. They went through a process of socialisation or training to enable them to carry out that role, women were socialised in to their roles of carers. This act of socialisation put women into a powerless position, a position that would continue throughout history.

In a world still inhabited by primitive tribes, in an attempt to create social harmony and tame anarchy the laws of rationality, were introduced. The laws of rationality followed the teachings of Plato (427-347 BC). Plato, in his search for the 'Ideal State', studied the problems of existing states in order to find a solution to war and discontentment and presents the 'Ideal State', as the answer. In his dialogue, the Republic, Plato claimed that, the creation of a good state depends on its being governed with reason, for this reason, philosophers and the educated should govern the state. Plato wanted all citizens to be educated, or, socialised from an early age into good citizens. They were to be educated in self control of the urges or the irrational side of their nature.

The Ancient Greeks had no knowledge or understanding of individual inner emotional life. Man was judge by his actions not by his thoughts, nevertheless, we are told that the philosophers of the time, set about subjecting nature, conciousness and society to reason. The noblest faculty in man became rationality. As rationality became the norm, behaviours once accepted as punishments from the Gods, were now regarded as irrational and therefore mad.

In essence, Plato concentrated on the roles of men within the community, mainly because of their physical strength, and he introduced the idea of 'private property'. This idea of private property was extended to women and children. The sexual activity of women strictly confined to and controlled by her husband to ensure that all children she bore belong to him. Women were at the mercy of their biological constitution and their role in society became that of reproduction. Women, along with the irrational became alienated. They were excluded from activities outside that of nurturing as, the demands of initial care for a human infant was prolonged and intensive. Women's ability to procreate put them in a powerless position as it resulted in continuous caring for infants and meant they became dependent of males for material provisions. Women struggled with their roles and experienced what the the Greek physician, Hippocrates described as melancholia, an early word for depression. Hippocrates theory was that mental illness was the result of an imbalance of four bodily fluids or humours, namely black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm. Too much black bile in the body was thought to be the cause of melancholia; too much yellow bile explained irritability and anxiousness; too much blood, changeable temperament. Treatments prescribed by Hippocrates for these symptoms were, abstinence from sexual activity, sobriety, careful diet and tranquillity.


Dark Ages

Around the Thirteenth Century, the Dark Ages saw the demise of the Greek and Roman civilisations. Untold millions were dying as a result of the plague. Economic problems that ensued, led to political and religious changes in which the church and its leaders increased its power. As a result of these religious changes, minds and bodies were regarded as the province of the clergy. Madness became conceptualized in terms of good and evil.

Agricultural disasters, disease and civil wars led to the crumbling of societies and the mechanisms of social order. As explanation for all the suffering and misery could not be found in traditional discourse, another explanation was needed. The church found their answer in witchcraft and women. Many women were held responsible, through their supposed malefactions, for the ever-amounting death toll. The church, by means of sophisms, or false reasoning, had women branded as witches possessed by the devil.

The Malleus Maleficarum (the witches hammer) published in 1487 by clerics turned persecutors, was a legal document and a textbook on witchcraft for the elite. The Malleus Maleficarum described a persons sudden loss of reason was a symptom of demonic possession and how burning the person was the usual method of driving out the demon.

Thousands of men, women and children were persecuted, subjected to all forms of torture by order of the church before being hung or burnt at the stake. Historians found that there was a ratio of twenty to one women branded as witches. There seems to have been no escape for women as what ever her status, young or old, pre-menstrual, married or single, she could be accused of witchcraft and of being possessed by a demon.

The second half of the Seventeenth Century the validity of the religious idea of madness came into question. Witchcraft was reinterpreted by those in power. So called witches were now view upon as no more than hysterical teenagers, old women and civil nuisances. From then on there was a move to what has been described as, the 'Great confinement'.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)