Howl at the Moon

When I was a teenager I witnessed dramatic shifts of my father’s moods, and none more so than the days leading up to a full Moon, during, and several days afterwards. My mother told me that when my grandfather met him, he instantly said that there was something peculiar about him, and upon my mother explaining to him how dramatic his mood shifts were during a full moon, he said ‘you’ve married a lunatic’. I always found it bizarre being a cynic, but is there genuinely any truth behind it, or is it based on superstition?

Tides are the rise and fall of water, and every ocean, lake, river and even swimming pools have a tide, but the smaller the surface area, the more unnoticeable it is, but it’s there. The Moon controls the tides due to its gravitational pull, and it affects the parts of the Earth closest to it, which is why we have high tides, and low tides. The Sun also has an effect on the the tides, but due to it being 93,000,000 miles away, it’s not as significant as the Moon’s. If the Moon affects water, and the human body is on average 57% water, then surely it must have an effect on us. But does it have a strong enough effect to control moods?

The term Lunatic has been used often as a derogatory term to describe someone who’s unstable or unpredictable, and doctors used to use it to describe neurological and psychological disease. Lunatic is derived from the Latin word ‘lunaticus’ which means ‘of the Moon’. The Ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle believed that Lunacy was responsible for bi-polar disorder, epilepsy, and other mental instabilities. In more recent times on compos mentis is the more politically correct way to describe someone of an unsound mind.

“The Lunacy Act of 1845 was passed through Parliament simultaneously with the 1845 County Asylums Act. The two acts were dependent on each other. The Lunacy Act established the Lunacy Commission and the County Asylums Act set forth most of the provisions as to what was to be monitored within the asylums and helped establish the public network of the county asylums.” – Wikipedia

Lycanthropy is the mental disorder where a person genuinely believes that they have the ability to turn into a wild animal, which is based on the supernatural folklore that a person would turn into a Werewolf, or Hombre Lobo in Spanish during a full Moon, after they’d been previously infected by a Werewolf bite. This is known in mythology as Therianthropy, which involves shapeshifting. The legend presumably came from the Beserkers, who were savage warriors that worshipped the Norse God Odin. Due to their brutality in battle, and the animal-skin clothing, they became legendary in Europe.

So, is there any truth to lunacy, and is there any scientific evidence to suggest that the Moon is responsible for disrupting the alignment of water molecules in the nervous system, and the brain? And if so, why does it not affect everyone, or is it only people who already have a chemical imbalance and are prone to erratic behaviour?

Hospitals, and emergency services like the police and the fire service often have more people working on a full Moon as there are more incidents, varying from violence to psychiatric admissions. Studies done suggest that during a full Moon sleep deprivation is evident, even in enclosed environments that blocked the Moon’s light. There are suggestions that animal attack cases rise in hospital records during a full Moon, but as much as science has tried to prove this, the results are always inconclusive.

Despite science being unable to prove that the Moon can control moods, for thousands of years people have believed it to be the case, and I’m sure that you all know someone like my father, who is extremely difficult to be around during a full Moon.

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