Hysteria Disorder: Understanding the Past & Present

Hysteria Disorder

What is hysteria disorder?

Hysteria is a term for excessive emotions, but it was also a medical diagnosis once upon a time. Amateurs often refer to hysteria as excessive, out-of-control emotional behavior.

It is often described as hysterical when someone reacts in a way that seems out of proportion to the situation. A wide range of symptoms associated with womanhood was referred to as “victorian syndrome” during the Victorian era.

Hysteria was once included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a diagnosable condition, however, it was removed in 1980. Dissociative disorders or somatic symptom disorders can be diagnosed when an individual exhibits hysterical symptoms.

An individual experiencing physical symptoms caused by a psychological condition is said to have hysteria.

Read: What is Hypnosis

Hysteria symptoms

Partially paralyzed, hallucinations and nervousness are common symptoms of hysteria. Other hysteria symptoms may include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Anxiety
  • Fainting
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Intense sexuality
  • Irritability
  • Agitation

It is believed that Hippocrates coined the term to describe the movement of the uterus throughout a woman’s body as a result of her pregnancy. According to ancient cultures, the uterus of a woman was able to travel freely through different parts of her body, often resulting in medical symptoms that differed from place to place.

Greek word hystera means “uterus,” which is where hysteria comes from.

Psychiatric diagnoses such as hysteria are no longer valid today, but they are good examples of how concepts can be evolved, changed, and replaced as we gain a better understanding of how humans think and behave.

Read: Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder

Historical hysteria treatment

  • Regular marital sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Proximal convulsions / orgasms
  • Rest cure

The history of hysteria

Hysteria became known as a psychological condition during the late 1800s. The French neurosurgeon Jean-Martin Charcot used hypnosis as a treatment for women suffering from disorder.

A major contribution to the development of psychoanalysis was the mystery of disorder. Charcot, the Austrian psychoanalyst, had studied under the legendary psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, so he had first-hand experience watching patients with the condition and his methods of treatment.

A young woman experiencing the symptoms of hysteria, Anna O., was one of the cases Freud worked on with colleague Josef Breuer which helped lead to the development of psychoanalytic therapy. In Anna’s experience, she had found that simply discussing her problems with her therapist improved her overall health. Until today, this treatment is called talk therapy. She called it the “talking cure.” 

Young Sabina Spielrein, Freud’s colleague, was also treated for hysteria by Carl Jung. The theories Jung and Freud developed were influenced by Spielrein’s case, which Jung often discussed with Freud. During World War II, Spielrein was murdered by the Nazis after obtaining psychoanalytic training.

Check: Dyslexia

Hysteria in modern psychology

It was in 1980 that the American Psychological Association began to refer to conversion disorder by the name “hysterical neurosis, conversion type.”

Psychologists today recognize several disorders, which historically were referred to as hysteria, such as dissociative disorder and somatic symptom disorder.

Dissociative disorders

The term dissociative disorder refers to mental disorders that cause an interruption in different aspects of consciousness, such as identity and memory. Dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, and dissociative identity disorder are all examples of these disorders.

Somatic symptom disorder

Symptoms previously associated with the disorder now fall under somatic symptom disorder, which is the most recent update to the DSM.

 Various conditions are associated with each other:

  • Illness anxiety disorder (formerly hypochondriasis)
  • Conversion disorder (functional neurological symptom disorder)
  • Other specified somatic symptom and related disorder
  • Other medical problems impacted by psychological factors
  • Factitious disorder
  • Unspecified somatic symptom and related disorder

Somatic symptom disorders are characterized by a sustained focus on physical symptoms such as pain, weakness or shortness of breath. It has profound effects on the individual’s ability to function normally. Whether the individual has a medical condition or not is irrelevant. The person believes that they are sick, regardless of whether they are sick or not. 

Read: Applied Behavior Analysis