Definitions for erethismˈɛr əˌθɪz əm
This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word erethism
Random House Webster's College Dictionary
er•e•thismˈɛr əˌθɪz əm(n.)
an unusual or excessive degree of irritability or stimulation in an organ or tissue.
Origin of erethism:
1790–1800; < F éréthisme < Gk erethismós irritation =ereth(ízein) to irritate +-ismos -ism
er`e•this′mic-ˈθɪs tɪk; -ˈθɪt ɪk(adj.)er`e•thit′ic
er`e•this′tic-ˈθɪs tɪk; -ˈθɪt ɪk(adj.)er`e•thit′ic
an abnormally high degree of irritability or sensitivity to stimulation of an organ or body part
Abnormal excitement of a bodily organ or tissue.
Any unusual or morbid overexcitement.
a morbid degree of excitement or irritation in an organ
Erethism or erethism mercurialis is a neurological disorder which affects the whole central nervous system, as well as a symptom complex derived from mercury poisoning. This is also sometimes known as the mad hatter disease. Historically, this was common among old England felt-hatmakers who used mercury to stabilize the wool in a process called felting, where hair was cut from a pelt of an animal such as a rabbit. The industrial workers were exposed to the mercury vapors, giving rise to the expression “mad as a hatter.” Some believe that the character the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is an example of someone suffering from erethism, but the origin of this account is unclear. The character was almost certainly based on Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer who was well known to Carroll. It is commonly characterized through behavioral changes such as irritability, low self-confidence, depression, apathy, shyness and timidity, and in some extreme cases with prolonged exposure to mercury vapors, delirium, personality changes and memory loss occur as a result. People with erethism find it difficult to interact socially with others, with behaviors similar to that of a social phobia. Although most of the effects of erethism are neurological, some physical problems arise as well, including a decrease in physical strength, “headaches, general pain, and tremors after exposure to metallic mercury” as well as irregular heartbeat. It has been documented that “the tremor in the hands can be so severe that the victim is unable to hold a glass of water without spilling its contents.”
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