The term hysteria is often used to describe a person who has excessive or out of control emotions and behavior. Although nowadays it is not medically recognized, in the past, it was a common medical diagnosis. The American Psychological Association (APA) now categorizes what was previously known as hysteria as somatic symptom disorder (SSD) or conversion disorder (CD), depending on the symptoms. SSD is characterized by an exaggerated emotional response to physical symptoms. CDis mental distress that causes physical symptoms.

1. History of hysteria

Hysteria dates back as far as ancient Egypt. By the 16th and 17th centuries, people believed hysteria occurred as a result of retention of fluid in the uterus, sexual deprivation, or the uterus wandering around the body causing irritability. Therefore, of course, only women could develop hysteria. The recommended treatment was marriage and frequent sexual encounters with one’s husband. By the late 1800s, hysteria was recognized as a psychological disorder. French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot used hypnosis to treat patients — still exclusively women — with hysteria. Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud studied with Charcot, and his experience observing hysteria led to the development of psychoanalytic therapy.

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