Hysteria: Historical Perspective


"Women under hysteria" from Wikipedia. D.M. Bourneville and P. Régnard, public domain.

From The Lancet:

The changing meanings of hysteria have mirrored the preoccupations of the societies that used the term:

Ancient Egyptians, and subsequently Greeks, blamed a displaced hystera, or womb, for many women's afflictions, including choking, mutism, and paralysis, although the term hysteria was not applied until later.

Hippocratic writings speak of a dry womb rising towards the throat in search of moisture, thereby impeding breathing.

As anatomical knowledge increased, such notions became untenable and Galen instead blamed blocked menstrual flow and sexual abstinence.

Galen suggested that retained sperm could contribute to male hysteria, igniting a debate which was to run for centuries over whether men could indeed suffer hysteria.

Psychiatrists have gradually replaced the term "hysteria" with "somatization disorder". In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association officially changed the diagnosis of "hysterical neurosis, conversion type" to "conversion disorder".

References:
Hysteria, Perspectives. The Lancet, Volume 374, Issue 9702, Page 1669, 14 November 2009.
Hysteria. Wikipedia.
Somatoform Disorder: Conversion. eMedicine Specialties > Pediatrics: Developmental and Behavioral > Medical Topics.

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