Mental Health Monday–Mad as a Hatter!!!


My Mental Health/Medical Monday partner in crime, Lydia, had a fantastic idea about a series of posts on medical illnesses that mimic psychiatric ones! (So, don’t forget to check out her post today–it’s sure to be interesting!) And, as always, the content of these posts is for writing only, it is NOT intended to be treatment or medical advice. (Yes, the disclaimer IS necessary.)

To jump off the series, I’m gonna discuss Mad Hatter Syndrome. (It’s a real thing–scout’s honor–otherwise known as mercury poisoning.)

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No, it doesn’t mean you’ll end up in a Lewis Carroll novel. Or that you’ll turn into Johnny Depp. But sufferers do act a bit…mad.

As the story goes, hat-makers in the 1800’s used a mercury based liquid in the process of curing animal pelts. Poorly ventilated work areas promoted inhalation of the noxious fumes, thereby poisoning the workers with the heavy metal.

Well, heavy metals have a tendency to cause multiple symptoms. Mercury poisoning commonly presents with peripheral neuropathy (tingling, itching, burning, or pain in the extremities), poor coordination, swelling, skin discoloration (pink cheeks, fingers, and toes), hair and teeth loss, increased sensitivity to light, vision and hearing impairment, slurred speech, high blood pressure and heart rate, and increased salivation. Several psychiatric symptoms can occur as well, the most common of which include anxiety, irritability, depression, and hallucinations.

Sounds like a blast, right?

The good news is that mercury poisoning is treatable by a process called chelation. It entails taking agents that grab up the heavy metal and extract it from the body. Commonly used chelating agents are penicillamine and dimercaprol. If treatment happens early, most of the symptoms are reversible. If not, well, the damage can be permanent.

So, if you’re not a hat maker, can you get mercury poisoning? It is possible, thought VERY VERY VERY VERY rare. Sources of mercury include: fluorescent lightbulbs, thermometers (you know the phrase, “the mercury’s rising?”), and super-mega-doses of fish. Everything in moderation, people.

Okey-dokey, peeps. There you have it. If you have a mental health question (for writing, my friends, for writing), leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer!

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5 comments on “Mental Health Monday–Mad as a Hatter!!!

  1. Lynn Rush says:

    Wow. That’s way interesting. I never knew about this at all!
    Happy Monday.

  2. Lydia Kang says:

    So neat! I’m going to love these posts!

  3. Brenda Drake says:

    This is great information. Love it!

    Lewis Carroll actually based the Mad Hatter on a furniture maker who use to stand in the doorway of his shop with his hat pushed back. He’d wear an apron and his chin receded just like the illustrations of his Mad Hatter in his first printed book. Everyone called the guy the Mad Hatter, a popular term “mad as a hatter” at the time due to the hat maker’s mercury poisoning.

    It’s post like this that get you thinking about future possibilities for your writing. Thank you for taking the time to do this!

  4. Danyelle says:

    Awesome! It’s amazing what too much of anything can do to our systems.

  5. Fascinating! I knew mercury caused ‘madness,’ but I didn’t know about the other symptoms. Thanks!

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