The Glass Delusion

An unusual psychiatric disorder swept through Europe during the late Medieval period. Many people came to believe they were made of glass "and therefore likely to shatter into pieces." Historians call this the Glass Delusion.

A typical sufferer might have believed he was "a urinal, an oil lamp or other glass receptacle, or else he might himself be trapped within a glass bottle." (A "urinal" during the middle ages referred to a small flask... essentially a glass pee pee bottle.)

One famous early sufferer: the French king, Charles VI, who refused to allow people to touch him, and wore reinforced clothing to protect himself.

A 1561 medical account describes a patient "who had to relieve himself standing up, fearing that if he sat down his buttocks would shatter... The man concerned was a glass-maker from the Parisian suburb of Saint Germain, who constantly applied a small cushion to his buttocks, even when standing. He was cured of this obsession by a severe thrashing from the doctor, who told him that his pain emanated from buttocks of flesh."

In modern times, the glass delusion has disappeared. "Surveys of modern psychiatric institutions have only revealed two specific (uncorroborated) cases of the glass delusion. Foulché-Delbosc reports finding one Glass Man in a Paris asylum, and a woman who thought she was a potsherd was recorded at an asylum in Meerenberg."

One sign of the glass delusion's vanishing is that there's not much information about it on the internet. Not even a wikipedia entry about it. The above factoids came from "An odd kind of melancholy: reflections on the glass delusion in Europe," by Gill Speak, published in 1990 in the History of Psychiatry.
     Posted By: Alex - Thu Oct 09, 2008
     Category: History | Psychology

Oh geesh! Here we go.

I would be 'shattered' if I had a loved one who was 'cracked' up like this. It is ' crystal clear' that this delusion would be a 'stain' on that persons life. I would do all I could to help them 'break' free and to become 'bulletproof' against further delusions.

Posted by Madd Maxx on 10/10/08 at 07:57 AM
Dumbfounded, isn't there an "f" in m*********er somewhere?
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 10/10/08 at 08:51 AM
Now a days that guy would have sued the doctor for the mental anguish that would have caused. Nevermind it snapped him out of his psychosis, how dare a doctor try to cure their patient!
Posted by Jules in Connecticut on 10/10/08 at 08:52 AM
That's a pretty cool disorder. I guess the cases lack transparency, since we still don't know what caused them. Too bad the disorder doesn't really occur anymore; I guess we've lost our window of opportunity to study it.
Posted by kingmonkey in Athens, Ontario on 10/10/08 at 04:12 PM
This story reminds me of the movie "Unbreakable". Good flick!
Posted by Madd Maxx on 10/11/08 at 08:53 PM
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