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Over the ages, philosophers, theologians, and physicians had accepted insanity disorders within their purview. By the late 18th century, however, the first two had largely withdrawn and physicians, social activists, and the state took responsibility for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Psychiatry as a medical discipline came into being during the first years of the 19th century.

The rapidly growing population of the United States during the 19th century, along with an ever increasing number of immigrants, gave rise to the need for provision for the poor, the sick, and the mentally ill. Publicly supported almshouses and hospitals were established and the special needs of the mentally ill led to the era of asylums.

Psychiatry in the 19th century was based primarily in these mental hospitals. The later-organized profession of neurology claimed a role in treating mentally disordered people usually on an outpatient basis. While relations between psychiatry and neurology have waxed and waned during the subsequent years, by the end of the 20th century medical advances have brought the two together in a new field of neuroscience.

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| Diseases of the Mind Home | Introduction | Early Psychiatric Hospitals & Asylums | Benjamin Rush, M.D,: "The Father of American Psychiatry" |
| The 1840s: Early Professional Institutions & Lay Activism | 19th-Century Psychiatrists of Note | 19th-Century Psychiatric Debates | Credits |