The Nature of Hysteria

The Nature of Hysteria

The Nature of Hysteria

The Nature of Hysteria

Synopsis

Hysteria was a frequently diagnosed illness in the West through the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century. Today the medical profession has virtually abandoned the diagnosis altogether. However, this does not mean that hysteria has ceased to exist.In The Nature of Hysteria , Niel Micklem argues that the disease has merely shifted into other personal and collective forms. He traces the history of hysteria from ancient Egyptian times to the present and examines its mythic background. He also describes the involvement of sexuality in the clinical manifestations of hysteria to witchcraft, and various collective manifestations of hysteria in the form of sexual permissiveness and unisexual behaviour. Arguing that hysteria is much more than an illness, Niel Micklem suggests that the denial of hysteria in individual patients has coincided with the creation of an increasingly hysterical society.

Excerpt

Judging by any standards of pathology, hysteria must be the most extraordinary disease ever encountered by medicine. Countless generations have found in it a source of inspiration for investigation, research and discussion for the furtherance of medical science. the story of their results does not tell altogether of success or even satisfaction. On the contrary, hysteria has proved to be a source not only of inspiration, but of frustration, baffling uncertainty and downright exasperation. Furthermore, it has maintained a state of dissatisfaction and discord more persistently and for a greater length of time than any other feature of medical pathology. It cannot be surprising therefore, that amongst the foremost characteristics of hysteria is a readiness to cause suspicion in the minds of those who meet it. On many occasions throughout its history the question has arisen whether in fact hysteria should be recognised as a unit of illness. in the second half of the twentieth century the doubts and uncertainties reached a peak that motivated some medical authorities to heed the extent of their misgivings and take official action. Thereafter, in many classifications the name ‘hysteria’ ceased to appear as that of an illness in its own right.

The lively interest for medicine that hysteria has aroused since it was first recorded in ancient Egypt more than 3,000 years ago has yielded a substantial amount of writing. the most accomplished research worker would be hard pressed to account for all the literature, but more than enough is available to prompt the question . . .

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