Hysteria is a 4,000-year-old diagnosis that has been applied to no mean parade of witches, saints and, of course, Anna O.It says that whole generation of psychotherapists and others have been brainwashed not to call women hysterical. Their bible, the DSM-IV, changed the name to "conversion disorder" so as to not offend women.
The word hysteria derives from Greek for uterus, and ancient doctors attributed a number of female maladies to a starved or misplaced womb. Hippocrates, far right, suggested marriage as a treatment.
But over the last 50 years, the word has been spoken less and less. The disappearance of hysteria has been heralded at least since the 1960's. What had been a Victorian catch-all splintered into many different diagnoses. Hysteria seemed to be a vanished 19th-century extravagance useful for literary analysis but surely out of place in the serious reaches of contemporary science.
The word itself seems murky, more than a little misogynistic and all too indebted to the theorizing of the now-unfashionable Freud. More than one doctor has called it "the diagnosis that dare not speak its name."
Now they are doing brain scans on hysterical. Maybe they'll figure something out. Freud never did.