Hysteria is an old term referring to expressions of intense emotions
with persistent psychosomatic symptoms. Such symptoms may now be called
conversion disorders, hysterical neurosis or
histrionic personality disorder.
Hypochondria is big
business. About half the visits to medical doctors and at least
10% of all medical treatments are for people who have no evidence of organic
disease. Hypochondriacs compulsively spend nine or ten times
for health care than normal people.
Histrionic Personality Disorder
is a term used by the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric
Association to characterize emotional attention-seeking, an excessive
need for approval and inappropriate seductiveness.
These symptoms often seem to follow
covert emotional incest.
What is Hysteria?
Hysteria was first identified in ancient Greece, and although
the description changed many times, it was called a woman's disease,
because the uterus (womb) was thought to move around the body. Intense emotions,
screaming, kicking and unusual body sensations were called hysterics.
Hysterical outbursts usually include a temporary loss of
adulthood. Expect impulsive childish emotional expressions
of anxiety, depression, excitement and / or frustration.
Symptoms called hysteria may include nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
Occasionally, the symptoms can include convulsions, loss of sensitivity to touch
or pain and psychosomatic sensations such as tingling skin.
Some psychiatric drugs such as Diazepam
and Valium, and some antihistamines are known to trigger
hysterical symptoms. But when people feel on the edge of an
emotional explosion - almost anything can trigger intense reactions.
Historical treatments for hysteria included surgical
removal of the womb (hysterectomy) and/or ovaries. Adolf von Strümpell (1853-1925)
postulated psychic trauma as the cause for hysteria in 1884 and Paul
Möbius (1853-1907) developed a psychotherapeutic concept for treating these
disorders before Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) developed his psychoanalysis. Pierre
Janet (1859-1947) first used the term dissociation to describe the
behavior of people who had been diagnosed with hysteria.
If you do any of the following, we can probably help you:
- you react impulsively
- you feel deserted or isolated
- you damage or destroy relationships
- you cannot cope with strong emotions
If you notice any of these in yourself, perhaps talk with trusted
friends. (If you use an employee-assistance program, your personnel
file may forever include details of your need for psychological assistance).
We find that many people show mild symptoms of hypochondria, although
rarely at a severity that would indicate referral to a psychiatrist.
Strangely, few people seem to want to manage their symptoms or to
improve their lives. We assume that the benefits of the symptoms
often outweigh the disadvantages.
The symptoms associated with conversion
disorders appear to be delayed
(age regressed) emotional reactions to
These disappointments are shown as dramatic and exaggerated
childish behavior that once attracted
attention and sympathy.
Do you attract attention or sympathy? Children seem to copy these
behaviors from their parents, and use these symptoms as
I'm just like you!")
Histrionic Personality Disorder
The World Health Organization characterizes histrionic
personality disorder by the presence of at least 3 of the following:
- shallow, flexible emotional attachments
- overly concerned with physical attractiveness
- continually seeks to be the centre of attention
- easily influenced by people and circumstances
- inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior
- exaggerated, dramatic and theatrical emotional
Women with histrionic behavior often describe
covert father-daughter emotional incest.
This can result when women feel enmeshed with their
fathers, often resulting in strong emotional bonds that may
delay or prevent bonding with a male partner. Also, such father-bonds
can damage their future partnership.
My wife cannot get enough attention.
If she's not the center of attention she explodes ...
I am frustrated with her shallowness but inside she's just a lost little girl ...
My psychiatrist told me that partnering a hysterical person
can destroy the partner.
How can I help her before that happens?
Men seem less likely to show these symptoms so obviously,
although these symptoms may follow
mother-son emotional incest.
My last boyfriend was beautiful. He looked
like a male model although he worked in a car wash. He spent all his money on
clothes, and he would change them many times each day. He was always posing,
and if I didn't continually compliment him, he would sulk like a scolded
puppy - and then go home to his adoring mother. Florida
Emotions & Maturity
Carl Jung wrote that we cannot solve the most important problems in
life, we can only outgrow them. Loss, rejection, unrequited love,
unfulfilled ambitions ... we may not be able to solve these
problems although we often help people become more mature.
Anxiety and depression often increase when
people hide emotions, family secrets and other
Then something minor can trigger hysterical behavior.
People who show signs of hysteria often seem to be
egotistic and/or irresponsible. Egotists may focus on
showing how special they are, while irresponsible people may be
better described as childish. Some people with these
habits may be dysfunctional.
Martyn, for my master's degree in
psychology, I learned history, theories and statistics from professors
who have never been in private practice.
You offer experience! Boston
We help people learn how to manage their emotions ... how to manage
entanglements and unwanted
bonds ... and how to improve their relationship skills.
Relief for negative emotions
If you suffer negative emotions, you have three main choices:
- Do Nothing: If you do nothing about your symptoms,
you risk becoming bitter and angry as healthier people build happier
relationships. If you do nothing, your emotional and physical health may
- Take drugs: While there are no specific drugs for
the direct treatment of conversion disorders, medications are often
prescribed to help people manage emotions. (Can drugs manage
- Change Yourself: You can use your symptoms to motivate
yourself to re-evaluate how you want to live your life, manage your
emotional problems and limiting beliefs, participate in relationships and
achieve your goals.
Emotions & Maturity
If you are prone to emotional outbursts, consider ...
- Not all good advice will benefit you
- Happiness reflects your relationships
- You are unique ... and not particularly special
- You can attract healthy people by living healthy values
- Consequences can teach you to avoid repeating mistakes
- Too much positive thinking can have unpleasant
- Childish reactions are not bad - only childish
- yet can damage your life
Do you want to manage your emotions and build healthy
Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy
Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers 2008-2018
All rights reserved.
- Dorland's Pocket Medical Dictionary.
25th edition. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company.
- ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioral
Disorders. World Health Organization. Geneva.
- Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy,
Section 15. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories.
- DSM 4 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders. 4th edition. American Psychiatric Association.