The history of hysteria and what’s next…

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Abstract

From the ancient times up till now hysteria has been a mysterious and intriguing issue. The authors of this article using mainly the work of Etienne Trillat of the same title, present the most important facts from the history of hysteria. Our work shows how notions of hysteria known initially as uterine dyspnoea, which was the term used by Hippocrates in the seventh tome of his “Collected Works” evolved step by step. At the end of 1st century AD a newcomer to Rome, Soranus of Ephesus, as an experienced anatomist in his “Treatise on midwifery and the diseases of women” moved away from the old ideas of Plato and Hippocrates equating uterus to an animal. How did views on hysteria develop throughout Middle Ages, Renaissance or World Wars period? In this article the authors are trying to determine the nature of hysteria as well as what remained from hysteria in the contemporary times, depicting hysteria’s elusiveness as a disease, many difficulties with its definition and connection with many shocking events in history of mankind. From the ancient sages, through Kramer, Sprenger, Wier, Harvey, Willis, Sydenham, Blackmore up until Mesmer, Freud and many others. From hysteric witches, beings suffering from vapors, through sensitive, fragile and musing women up until mythomaniacs, nymphomaniacs and what we define today as histrionic personality disorder. In the words of French neurologist and a creator of psychiatry – Charcot – hysteria existed forever, everywhere and all-time. Why did it vanish though? Authors of this article will address this problem in the final part, trying to determine the cause.

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