What Is Lobotomy and Why Is It Done?

Explore what lobotomy is, its historical context, and why it was used. Learn about its impact on mental health treatment and its decline in practice.

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2. Jul 2024
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What Is Lobotomy and Why Is It Done?















Lobotomy, once a common medical procedure, involves surgically altering the brain's frontal lobe to treat severe mental illnesses. Here's a detailed exploration of what lobotomy entails, its historical context, and why it was used.

Understanding Lobotomy

Lobotomy, also known as leucotomy, is a surgical procedure that aims to sever connections in the brain's prefrontal cortex. This area is associated with higher-level thinking, emotions, and behavior regulation. The procedure was developed in the early 20th century as a drastic treatment for psychiatric disorders that were considered untreatable by other means.

Procedure

There are two main types of lobotomy:

1. Pre-frontal Lobotomy: This involves accessing the brain through the eye sockets or the top of the skull to sever nerve fibers connecting the frontal lobe to the rest of the brain.

2. Transorbital Lobotomy: A less invasive form where a sharp instrument is inserted through the eye socket to sever the connections, initially without anesthesia.

Historical Context

Lobotomy gained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s as a treatment for severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, severe depression, and bipolar disorder. It was believed to calm patients by reducing emotional intensity and behavior disturbances.

Why Was It Done?

1. Treatment of Severe Mental Illness: Lobotomy was seen as a last resort for patients who did not respond to other forms of treatment, including psychotherapy and medication.

2. Behavioral Control: It was thought to alleviate symptoms such as agitation, aggression, and hallucinations by disrupting neural pathways.

Controversy and Decline

  • Ethical Concerns: Lobotomy's effectiveness was often limited and came with significant risks, including personality changes, cognitive impairments, and in some cases, death.
  • Advances in Psychiatry: With the development of psychiatric medications and psychotherapeutic techniques, lobotomy fell out of favor by the 1950s and 1960s. These treatments offered less invasive and more effective alternatives.

Conclusion

Lobotomy, once considered a breakthrough in psychiatric treatment, is now viewed with skepticism due to its invasive nature and unpredictable outcomes. While it played a role in the history of psychiatry, its use has significantly declined in favor of safer and more effective treatments. Today, the focus remains on compassionate care, evidence-based therapies, and medication management to support individuals with mental health challenges.

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Rishabh Sinha
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