Author(s): Okasha A
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Abstract This article introduces the reader to mental health in the Middle East with an Egyptian perspective, from the Pharaonic era through the Islamic Renaissance, up until the current state. During Pharaonic times, mental illness was not known as such, as there was no separator between Soma and Psyche. Actually, mental disorders were described as symptoms of the heart and uterine diseases, as stated in Eber's and Kahoun's papyri. In spite of the mystical culture, mental disorders were attributed and treated on a somatic basis. In the Islamic era, mental patients were never subjected to any torture or maltreatment because of the inherited belief that they may be possessed by a good Moslem genie. The first mental hospital in Europe was located in Spain, following the Arab invasion, and from then on it propagated to other European countries. The 14th century Kalawoon Hospital in Cairo had four departments, including medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, and mental disorders. Six centuries earlier, psychiatry in general hospitals was recognized in Europe. The influence of Avicenna and Elrazi and their contributions to European medicine is well-known. This article discusses further the current state of the mental health services in Egypt and the transcultural studies of the prevalence and phenomenology of anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, suicide, conversion, and obsessive compulsive disorders. An outline of psychiatric disorders in children is discussed. The problem of drug abuse is also addressed, especially that in Egypt after 1983, where drugs like heroine replaced the common habit of hashish.
This article was published in Clin Psychol Rev
and referenced in Journal of Psychiatry