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WikiDoc Resources for Hysteria


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List of terms related to Hysteria

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Hysteria, or somatization disorder, is a diagnostic label applied to a state of mind, one of unmanageable fear or emotional excesses. The fear is often centered on a body part, most often on an imagined problem with that body part (disease is a common complaint). People who are "hysterical" often lose self-control due to the overwhelming fear.

Because of its association with female hysteria the term hysteria fell out of favor in the latter half of the 20th century. The word "hysterical" was replaced with synonyms such as functional, nonorganic, psychogenic and medically unexplained. In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association officially changed the diagnosis of “hysterical neurosis, conversion type” to “conversion disorder.” In that diagnostic manual the word "neurosis" was removed entirely for any conditions. Currently, the formal term for what is popularly called "hysteria" by the layman in the professional diagnostic manuals, DSM-IV, and ICO is the Histrionic personality disorder. The word "hysteria" is used in the popular press and in informal conversations.


The term originates with the Greek medical term, hysterikos. This referred to a medical condition, thought to be particular to women, caused by disturbances of the uterus, hystera in Greek. The term hysteria was coined by Hippocrates, who thought that the cause of hysteria was due to the uterus wandering around the body in search of children.

The same general definition, or under the name female hysteria, came into widespread use in the middle and late 19th century to describe what is today generally considered to be sexual dissatisfaction.[1] Typical "treatment" was massage of the patient's genitalia by the physician and later vibrators or water sprays to cause orgasm.[1] By the early 1900s, the practice and usage of the term had fallen from use until it was again popularized when the writings of Sigmund Freud became known and influential in Britain and the USA in the 1920s. The Freudian psychoanalytic school of psychology uses its own, somewhat controversial, ways to treat hysteria.

The knowledge of hysterical processes was advanced by the work of Jean-Martin Charcot, a French neurologist. However, many now consider hysteria to be a legacy diagnosis (i.e., a catch-all junk diagnosis),[2] particularly due to its long list of possible manifestations: one Victorian physician cataloged 75 pages of possible symptoms of hysteria and called the list incomplete.[3].

Mass hysteria

The term also occurs in the phrase mass hysteria to describe mass public near-panic reactions. It is commonly applied to the waves of popular medical problems that "everyone gets" in response to news articles.

A similar usage refers to any sort of "public wave" phenomenon, and has been used to describe the periodic widespread reappearance and public interest in UFO reports, crop circles, and similar examples. Also, when information, real or fake, becomes misinterpreted but believed, e.g. penis panic.

Hysteria is often associated with movements like the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism, the First Red Scare, the Second Red Scare, Terrorism, and Satanic ritual abuse where it is better understood through the related sociological term of moral panic.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rachel P. Maines (1999). The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6646-4.
  2. Mark S. Micale (1993). "On the "Disappearance" of Hysteria: A Study in the Clinical Deconstruction of a Diagnosis". Isis. 84: 496–526.
  3. Laura Briggs (2000). "The Race of Hysteria: "Overcivilization" and the "Savage" Woman in Late Nineteenth-Century Obstetrics and Gynecology". American Quarterly. 52: 246–73.
  • The H-Word, Guardian Unlimited, http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,782338,00.html
  • Halligan, P.W., Bass, C., & Marshall, J.C. (Eds.)(2001). Contemporary Approach to the Study of Hysteria: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives. Oxford University Press, UK.
  • Sander Gilman, Roy Porter, George Rousseau, Elaine Showalter, and Helen King (1993). Hysteria Before Freud (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford: University of California Press).

See also

de:Hysterie is:Sefasýki it:Isteria nl:Hysterie sr:Хистерија fi:Hysteria sv:Hysteri

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