Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964517 | Print ISBN: 9781412909167 | Online ISBN: 9781412964517| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Hysteria is a wrongly diagnosed Western medical condition attributed primarily to women. Diagnosed most frequently during the Victorian era (1830s-1900), symptoms of female hysteria, which varied greatly for each individual, included fainting, shortness of breath, anxiety, loss of appetite, insomnia, irritability, and disinterest in sex with one's spouse. Hysteria was often believed to be caused by insufficient sexual intercourse or lack of sexual satisfaction. Many female patients diagnosed with hysteria were treated with a “pelvic massage” (sometimes from midwives or physicians and later with “therapeutic” vibrators) that would induce what doctors deemed “hysterical paroxysm” or orgasm. Until 1952, when the American Psychiatric Association officially dropped the term hysteria from its list of ailments, hysteria was one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in Western medical history. This entry describes hysteria in Western society and Victorian society, as well as Sigmund Freud's views on hysteria. Notions of female hysteria can be ...