Hysteria, also known as hysterical neurosis, is a psychological state that is caused by extreme emotions such as overwhelming fear or sorrow. The psychological strain will become so severe that the individual will begin showing physical symptoms. The person will be extremely emotional and will often feel pain associated with supposed problems.
For centuries, it was thought that hysteria only affected women. In fact, the word hysteria comes from the Greek word “hustera”, meaning “uterus”, because it was thought that all hysterical symptoms stemmed from the female uterus.
Unfortunately, hysteria became a blanket diagnosis for all women who showed abnormal behavior whether it was simple hormonal problems and sexual dysfunctions or serious mental disorders. Until the early 20th century, hysteria was often referred to as female hysteria. Since the advent of modern medicine and psychiatry, diagnoses of hysteria are not as wide spread. Although it has been established that the disorder is not caused by the female uterus, hysteria is still diagnosed more in women than in men.
Mass hysteria occurs when a group of people experience paralyzing fear that stems from the same cause. For example, mass hysteria could occur during a school shooting or a civil disturbance. It is very much thought that mass hysteria was part of the Salem Witch Trials.
Although hysteria is divided into several disorders, it is now most commonly referred to as somatization disorder.
Those suffering from hysteria are completely consumed by fear and anxiety. The person is absolutely certain that his or her body is suffering from disease or injury. The person will be so afraid of the supposed problem that he or she will often dissolve into “hysterics” that cannot be controlled by the person or by others. The person is so certain of the problem that he or she will actually feel associated pain. A person suffering with hysteria will often not be able to function socially.
Other symptoms of hysteria include hyperventilation, fainting spells, elevated heart rates, depression, convulsions, and sensory impairment. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few weeks to a lifetime depending on the cause and type of hysteria.
Hysteria is not a physical disease that can be treated and ultimately cured. It is a serious psychological disorder. As with many mental problems, a person can be born with it. It can also be brought on by emotional or traumatic experiences such as witnessing a crime or the unexpected death of a loved one. Hysteria can also develop in children who have lived in an extremely abusive environment.
Unfortunately, hysteria can also be a side effect of chemical drugs. Long term use of the anti-anxiety drug Valium, for example, has been proven to cause the symptoms of hysteria.
Those suffering from hysteria will often do harm to themselves and to others. Because depression is a common symptom, thoughts of suicide can occur.
Even if a person is able to function socially, the symptoms of hysteria can be detrimental to interpersonal relationships. Hysteria sufferers often have difficulty making friends or forming and maintaining intimate relationships.
Histrionic Personality Disorder
3. Pain Disorder
Conversion disorder occurs when a person encounters a personal difficulty that he or she feels unable to cope with by ordinary means. The person therefore “converts” the psychological dilemma into physical symptoms. A person suffering from conversion disorder will often have unexplainable physical problems such as tremors, paralysis, or even loss of sight, speech or hearing. For example, if a person sees his or her house burn down, he or she may, for a time, be unable to talk. The symptoms of conversion disorder are often alleviated by therapy.
Conversion disorder used to be known as hysterical blindness.
Histrionic personality disorder is diagnosed in people, particularly women, who show behavior patterns marked by overly emotional or dramatic thoughts and actions. The person will often embellish stories, be extremely egotistical, will seek approval and be hurt when it is not given, and will often dress and behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Although the person is able to interact socially, he or she will often be unable to maintain relationships.
Before personality disorders were discovered and defined, histrionic personality disorder was often blamed on sexual problems and/or witchcraft.
Pain disorder occurs when a person suffers from chronic, unexplainable pain, usually after having endured a psychologically stressful event such as the unexpected death of a loved one. The pain can last anywhere from a few weeks to several years. Pain disorder is not the same as fibromyalgia, although many of the symptoms of these two disorders are identical.
The most common hysteria disorder is somatization disorder. Somatization disorder is diagnosed when a person continually complains of physical pain and/or problems although there is no medical evidence that the problems actually exist. The person will go from one doctor to another, often with a new complaint for each.
Somatization disorder is sometimes considered a more serious form of hypochondria. A person with somatization disorder is absolutely certain of a physical problem; in fact, he or she will even feel pain associated with these supposed illnesses or injuries. Somatization disorder sufferers will also often manifest unexplainable physical impairments similar to those of conversion disorder sufferers.
Alternative Medicine and Natural Remedies
There are a wide number of homeopathic remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of hysteria. Each remedy depends on the type and severity of the symptoms. For example, Ignatia can be given to help relieve convulsions and supposed pain, Valeriana has a calming effect and can help with mood swings, and Gelsemium can help relieve irritability.
The Bach flower remedies are another effective homeopathic treatment. The remedies, developed by English homeopath Edward Bach, are made up of very small and very concentrated amounts of flower material. Rescue Remedy is the Bach flower remedy most commonly used in treating hysteria.
Although homeopathic remedies rarely have any lasting side effects, they should never be taken without the guidance of a homeopath, naturopath or other qualified medical professional.
1.2. Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies are usually used to calm hysteria sufferers, thereby making them more manageable. Lavender, in any form, is often used because of its established ability to relieve tension. Lavender has no side effects except that it may possibly induce allergy attacks and/or hay fever.
Another common herbal remedy is St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort is a very potent relaxant that can be used to treat depression; in fact, St. John’s wort is often considered the poor man’s anti-depressant. The herb can be given in tea, capsule, or tincture form. Sensitivity to sunlight can develop after long term use; otherwise, St. John’s wort has no side effects.
Passion flower, which has practically no side effects, can also be used as a tranquilizer or to help induce sleep.
Acupuncture is an affordable way to treat nearly every illness and disorder. If done properly, acupuncture has no risks or side effects. Acupuncture sessions can cost as little as 50 dollars.
1.4. Massage Therapy
Another way to calm hysteria sufferers is massage therapy. Massages are very relaxing and often have no risks or side effects; only minor muscle or vein injuries can result. Costs usually start at about 60 dollars an hour.
Because hysteria is such a serious psychological disorder, hypnotherapy is sometimes necessary to help the person cope. Hypnotherapy can help the person relax, deal with his or her problems, and begin developing better habits.
Although hypnotherapy does not have any serious risks, it should only be conducted by a trusted professional. Hypnotherapy does not, by any means, have a one hundred percent success rate; however, it is a legitimate and, at times, useful treatment option. Hypnotherapy sessions can cost anywhere from 65 to 160 dollars. The severity of the illness or disorder is what determines the cost as well as the number of sessions.
2.1. Anti-Anxiety Medication
If necessary, medical doctors can prescribe traditional anti-anxiety medications for hysteria sufferers. Xanax and Ativan are two of the most commonly prescribed drugs.
However, anti-anxiety medications should only be administered to patients with either severe or violent hysteria symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications can aggravate symptoms and can also have nasty side effects. For example, some of the side effects of Xanax are depression and jaundice; Ativan can cause dizziness and amnesia.
Anti-depressants are often prescribed in an attempt to control mood swings and thoughts of suicide. Lexapro is one of the most often prescribed anti-depressants. Lexapro is effective although it can increase thoughts of suicide.
Again, these medications should only be used in extreme cases. If an anti-depressant is thought necessary, it is advisable to consider the aforesaid St. John’s wort.
2.3. Pain Killers
Pain killers are often prescribed for patients suffering from pain disorder and somatization disorder. Vicodin and Oxycodone are two common pain killers. Caution should be used, however, because the pain associated with hysteria disorders is mostly psychological. Also, most pharmaceutical pain killers have unpleasant side effects; Vicodin, for example, can cause intestinal problems and Oxycodone can cause seizures and breathing problems. When treating painful symptoms of hysteria disorders, it is advisable to use either natural remedies or placebos.
Psychotherapy is still considered a viable treatment option for hysteria. It is often used for treating victims of conversion disorder. However, many people do not morally or medically agree with the teachings of Sigmund Freud. Psychotherapy should only be used by patients who are open to a cure from this type of therapy. Counseling sessions usually cost from 60 to 120 dollars.
3.2. Cognitive Therapy
Cognitive therapy, which is not as controversial as psychotherapy, can help treat irrational thoughts and symptoms of depression. This therapy type is particularly effective for those suffering from histrionic personality disorder. Cognitive therapy also focuses on behavioral modification and, therefore, can help the patient develop a better lifestyle. Unfortunately, cognitive therapy usually costs 120 dollars a session. However, many patients feel that the end results are worth the cost.
3.3. Group Therapy
Group therapy is a cost effective treatment option for patients with mild symptoms of hysteria disorders. The setting is very relaxed and it can be helpful for patients to know that they are not the only ones suffering from these problems. However, group therapy should not be considered a treatment option for severe or particularly violent hysteria sufferers.
Natural remedies are some the most economical and effective ways to treat the symptoms of hysteria. However, no matter how simple a treatment may sound, it should only be administered under the guidance of a qualified professional.
Alternative medicine is always a viable option, simply from the standpoint that these treatments rarely cause
any adverse effects.
For the most part, pharmaceuticals are not considered the first choice for treating hysteria. However, for more severe cases, pharmaceuticals may be the only option.
Because hysteria disorders stem from psychological problems, therapies can be very effective treatment options. If properly conducted, therapies can provide relief from nearly every symptom of hysteria.