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Psychiatry and Psychology in Medieval Persia

J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67:1862-1869

Objective: The history of psychological sciences and especially the ways in which related disorders were treated in medieval Persia are not well known in the West. The main objective of this article is to review the clinical approaches to psychological disorders used by practitioners in medieval Persia.

Data Sources: Several documents still exist from which the clinical data on different psychological syndromes in medieval Persia can be ascertained. Data for this review were identified by searches of MEDLINE, Current Contents, the Internet, references from relevant articles and books, the Astan-e-Ghods Razavi Library, the Tehran University Library, the Mashhad University Library, and the files of the authors. Search terms included psychiatry, psychology, Persian, medieval, Avicenna, and pharmacotherapy.

Discussion: The medieval practitioners defined various signs and symptoms, apparent causes, and hygienic and dietary rules for prevention of these disorders. Medieval Persian medical writings encouraged the treatment of psychological disorders by tackling the conditions that cause or contribute to the disorder and through the use of electrical-shock therapy, phlebotomy, psychotherapy, music and color therapy, and especially prescription of long lists of medicaments.

Conclusion: Some of the approaches of doctors in medieval Persia are accepted today, although most remain largely unexamined. With further research, more of these treatments may be shown to be of use to modern medicine.