What is Hysteria

Hysteria is a psychological or neurotic disorder with symptoms such as nervousness, partial paralysis and hallucinations and many other symptoms depending on the individual.  Originally it was thought to be a condition that only affected women. The Greek physician Hippocrates thought the symptoms were caused by the movement of the uterus through the female body. Psychologists now know people of all ages and genders can develop hysteria though it is more common in women than men. Typically it begins during the teenage or young adult years. People with this condition often have uncontrollable fears or are extremely emotional.

Primarily there are 2 types of hysteria.

1. Dissociative Disorders – dissociating through memory and/or identity such as forgetting events that have occurred that were   traumatic, regressing to a younger age of memory, partial and total amnesia, imagining they are someone else and others. Dissociating may be a way for the mind to protect itself from an extremely difficult event or repeated events. Trauma such as sexual, physical and mental abuse as a child may even cause a victim to dissociate into multiple personalities.

2. Somatoform Disorders – physical symptoms that have no physical cause such as heaviness of limbs, chocking, sweating with out cause, shaking and trembling, clenching the teeth, vocalizing and others, excessive movement, inability to sleep, extreme talking, crying and screaming.  An extreme event in a person’s life may cause them to develop hysterical blindness, deafness, and the inability to speak.

There is a specific type of hysteria called Histrionic Personality Disorder These hysterics are seeking attention and engage in dramatic behavior.  They are self centered and operate on emotion. Personality traits are flirting and overt sexual behavior and the need for instant gratification. This constant demand for attention alienates them from others.

In addition there is a type of hysteria called Mass Psychogenic or Collective Hysteria. It involves extreme panic of a large number of people at once from a primary cause. A well known case of collective hysteria is the Salem Witch Trials involving the Puritan colonists believing that many girls and women were witches. Another example is the Red Scare that occurred due to the fear of communism in the 1940’s to the 1950’s.

People who have hysteria symptoms should seek the care of a doctor, psychologist or therapist to have the condition diagnosed and receive proper treatment. Treatment may include medication or psychotherapy.