ONE of the very first things you see in the opening credits for American Horror Story: Asylum is an ominous room filled with bath tubs. Well, it isn’t as though this series isn’t more bizarre than a few baths, however these particular baths are not for simply cleaning. Oh no, in actual fact, these are a very authentic and previously used method of treatment- hydropathy, as it was formerly known.
Patients were placed in a canvas hammock, arranged and tied onto a metal frame in the bath, covered with another sheet with only a hole for their head. Water was kept at body temperature, although sometimes hotter or colder, and would be filled up to the neck. Immersed to their chin, patients heads would rest on a rubber pillow.
Although designed as a treatment, this was often noted and used as punishment or a form of confinement. Supposed to have a calming effect on those with manic-depressive psychoses, not to mention prevented development of bed sores, these baths could last from minutes to hours to days.It was believed that either this submersion in warm or cold water, would relax patients to cease any suicidal or psychotic episodes. Of course, this was not always the case, and although perhaps relaxing, this was soon replaced with drugs such as lithium, to soothe psychotic outbursts.
Of course, hydrotherapy has been seen in various guises, such as hot springs and spa towns; a feature of upcoming social activity. Seen throughout ancient history, in locations including Gr
eece, Egypt, Britain, their holistic and healing properties was incorporated into the approaches to mental health which ended in these such hydrotherapy bath tubs.
Hydrotherapy is still a recognised therapy, although more so in holistic practices, for various ailments, mainly for physical therapy. Although a promising relaxation technique to many, this method is much less widely used, if at all, in the treatment of mental illness.