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Hysteria - Types, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Hysteria is a temporary, emotional state of mind with uncontrollable behaviors, also called dissociative disorder. Read below to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi

Published At November 1, 2022
Reviewed AtNovember 23, 2022

What Is Hysteria?

Hysteria is a mental health disorder that includes several sensory, motor, and psychic disturbances: this disorder was termed hysteria by Hippocrates, and it was believed that the cause of the disease is “hysteron,” which means movement of the uterus in greek. Thus was considered a disorder for females. Presently hysteria is also called conversion disorder. Hysteria is the first medical disorder attributed to women and is believed to stand at the base of the psychiatric triangle. It is also described as emotionally charged behavior, where a person reacts inappropriately to the situation. Recent studies have shown a significant decline in hysteric behaviors due to improved socioeconomic standards, or even if seen are associated with other underlying mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, etc.

What Are the Types of Hysteria?

Hysteria is classically divided into two types:

  • Primary Hysteria: It is caused due to substantial personality disorder.
  • Secondary Hysteria: It is caused by underlying mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

What Are Hysterical Behaviors?

An individual with hysteria can present with a wide variety of symptoms as the underlying anxiety and depression cause physical symptoms. Following are the common clinical signs and symptoms presented:

Sensory Disturbances:

These disturbances include paresthesia, hypersensitivity, and complete or partial loss of sensation. In severe cases, hysteria may also cause damage to other sensory organs and cause blindness, hearing loss, and loss of taste or smell.

Motor Symptoms:

Motor symptoms include complete paralysis, tremors, or convulsions. When the disease progresses, it may even cause loss of speech, vomiting, hiccuping, etc. However, when undergoing a neurological examination of the affected site, these individuals present intact neuromuscular apparatus with normal electrical activity, response, and stimulation.

Psychic Symptoms:

These symptoms are generally called dissociative reactions, where a person presents with attacks of amnesia and sleepwalking and can also present with multiple personalities. For example, a person with a dissociative reaction sometimes forgets his name or house address or has a split personality. Females with hysterical behaviors can behave emotionally charged, and out of control.

What is Mass Hysteria?

Mass hysteria is an outbreak of unusual behaviors shared among a large group of people. Individuals with mass hysteria do not have any underlying medical condition but can have triggers or might have similar behavior patterns on a regular basis. The classic example of mass hysteria is the incident that took place across Europe in the middle ages, where a group of people started dancing without stopping till they fell due to exhaustion.

How Is Hysteria Caused?

The disease is considered to have variable causes. Initially, it was thought to be caused by uterine movements in females, but recent studies have reported that dissociative disorders are caused as a result of trauma which can be caused during the growing years as a child. The trauma can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Hysteria can also be caused as a result of childhood abuse or parental neglect. The cases of the disorder are often presented in low socioeconomic groups of very high-standard societies, which fail to give attention to their children as parents.

How Is Hysteria Diagnosed?

Hysteria is a historical term for various disorders that are present today. A person with similar symptoms to hysteria when presented today is diagnosed with other psychological disorders like:

  • Dissociative amnesia.
  • Dissociative fugue.
  • Dissociative identity disorder.
  • Illness anxiety disorder.
  • Factitious disorder.

No significant diagnostic test is available to confirm the diagnosis of the disorder, but a person can be termed hysteric if he frequently presents behavioral symptoms. As hysterical individuals can become aggressive and can sometimes be harmful to themselves and the people around them, any such behaviors, when noticed repeatedly, should be reported, and medical help should be sought.

How to Avoid Hysteria?

Hysteria can be prevented during its onset by avoiding the conditions that promote the flare or growth of the disorder, or the symptoms can be controlled in various ways that help a person cope with the disorder. Following are some ways to cope with the disorder:

  • Practice Mindfulness: Individuals must concentrate on the present and prevent overthinking, which can help in staying grounded.
  • Practice Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises can help prevent anxiety and reduce stress.
  • Write in a Diary: Writing down one's feelings on paper will help one feel relieved. Thus jotting down the negative feelings and letting them go will help.
  • Get Physically Active: Physical exercises help one get over stress and lead a healthier life. Hiking, trekking, or other physical exercises can be helpful.
  • Develop a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Sleep-wake cycles are important as our body requires sufficient rest to function normally to its full potential. Rest also helps to deal with stress and emotional distress in a better way.

What Are the Treatments Available for Hysteria?

Hysterical psych is difficult to treat, and the cure is nearly impossible. Therefore, hysteria treatment aims to control the symptoms and mood swings. Treatment includes psychotherapy.

Various therapies include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.
  • Mindfulness-based therapy.

Medicinal treatment can sometimes be used to control somatic symptoms of the disorder. Some commonly used drugs in the treatment of hysteria include Amitriptyline and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. During the ancient ages, medical vibrators were used for pelvic massages to treat female hysteria. Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, was the first technological advancement in medicine.


Hysteria, also called dissociative disorder, is a psychological and emotional disorder conventionally considered to occur in females due to uterine movements. It was thought to correlate with the sexual activity of a female. But in recent times, it has been associated with other psychological disorders based on the symptoms presented. Individuals with this disorder usually present with symptoms like emotional outbursts, hallucinations, blindness, decreased pain threshold, fainting or passing out, etc.

The disorder develops if a person has experienced abuse or had a traumatic childhood or past. Treatment of the disease mainly aims at treating and controlling the symptoms through various psychotherapies. Some medicines like Amitriptyline can also be used to minimize the symptoms. A person is advised to make life modifications and practice exercise, meditation, etc., to maintain physical balance, control emotional breakdowns, and cope with this disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Different Stages of Hysteria?

Hysteria has the following stages.
  - Epileptoid.
- Contortions and acrobatic postures.
- Emotional gestures.
- Final delirium.


What Are the Example of Hysteria?

Following are examples of hysteria.
-  Choreomania.
- Hand and arm tremors in students.
-  Vaccine side effects.
- Tics.


What Is Hysteria Disease in Females?

Female hysteria has a wide range of symptoms including anxiety, shortness of breath, fainting, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, irritability, and loss of appetite for food or sex, which were once common medical diagnoses for women with female hysteria.


Is Hysteria Still a disease?

In Western culture, other diagnoses like conversion or functional disorders have taken the place of hysteria as a medical diagnosis for the most part.


What Was the First Treatment Developed for Hysteria?

Women were increasingly dismissed as "mad" or not having had enough orgasms in ancient Greece. Most treatments suggested to women suffering from hysteria involved the idea that sex could help women overcome these conditions.


How to Prevent Hysteria?

- Tips for the prevention of hysteria are listed below.
- Write in a diary.
- Do breathing exercises.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Get physically active.
- Stick to a regular sleeping schedule.


Does Stress Contribute to the Causes of Hysteria?

According to current evidence and theories regarding previous widespread hysteria, stress, and anxiety may play a role. There is some evidence that chronic stress is more likely to cause mass motor hysteria, whereas sudden, extreme stress is more likely to cause mass anxiety hysteria.


What Is the Cause of Hysteria?

Primary hysteria is caused due to severe personality disorder.
Secondary anxiety occurs due to underlying mental health issues like depression and anxiety.


Psychological hysteria: What Is It?

Previously known as hysteria, conversion disorder is a mental illness characterized by a wide range of sensory, motor, or psychic disturbances. It does not depend on any known organic or structural pathology, despite being traditionally categorized as one of the psychoneuroses.


How Does Mass Hysteria Work?

In the context of anxiety, the term "epidemic hysteria" or "mass hysteria" refers to dissociative phenomena that appear to be contagious and occur in large groups of individuals or institutions. Typically, they are referred to as occurring in schools, where illness or fainting spreads quickly throughout the institution.


What Are the Symptoms of Hysteria?

Symptoms of hysteria are listed below.
- Blindness.
- Emotional outbursts.
- Hallucinations.
- Histrionic behavior (being overly dramatic or excitable).
- Increased suggestibility.
- Loss of sensation.


Is Hysteria an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety itself might be viewed as hysteria. However, all forms of anxiety can cause severe emotional reactions.


Is hysteria a Neurological Disorder or Not?

Hysteria is characterized as protests that are not completely made sense of by natural or useful neurological infection. Hysterical symptoms are normal in neurological work, representing around 1% of neurological conclusions.


What Is Another Name for Mass Hysteria?

Mass psychogenic disease (MPI), called mass sociogenic sickness, mass psychogenic problem, scourge insanity, or widespread panic, includes spreading ailment side effects through a populace without an irresistible specialist liable for infection.


How Long Do Mass Hysteria Symptoms Last?

Mass hysteria symptoms last from a few hours to 16 days.
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Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi
Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi



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