Description: A diagnostic label applied to a state of mind, one of unmanageable fear or emotional excesses. The fear is often centered on a body part, most often on an imagined problem with that body part (disease is a common complaint).
Persons most commonly affected: Beginning during adolescence or early adulthood and occurring more commonly in women than men. Becomes less frequent after the age of 25 and in uncommon after the age of 45 years.
Organ or part of body involved: Nerves
Symptoms and indications: The symptoms of hysteria are heaviness in the limbs, severe cramps, a strong feeling of ascending abdominal constriction, continual sighings, difficulty in breathing, constriction in the chest, palpitations, feeling of a foreign body lodged in the throat, swelling of the neck and of the jugular veins, suffocation, headache, clenched teeth, and generalized and voluntary tensing of muscles of locomotion. In severe cases, additional symptoms are noticeable; these may include wild and painful cries, incomplete loss of consciousness, an enormously swollen neck, violent and tumultuous heartbeats, involuntary locomotor muscle contraction, frightening generalized convulsions, and violent movement. The physical symptoms include a weakness of the will, a craving for love and sympathy, and a tendency towards emotional instability. Hysterical trances may last for days or weeks. A patient in a trance may appear to be in a deep sleep, but the muscles are not usually relaxed.
Causes and risk factors: Hysterical disorders:
Hysteria may be a defense mechanism to avoid painful emotions by unconsciously transferring this distress to the body. There may be a symbolic function for this, for example a rape victim may develop paralyzed legs. Symptoms may mimic a number of physical and neurological disorders which must be ruled out before a diagnosis of hysteria is made.
Histrionic personality disorder:
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), individuals with histrionic personality possess at least five of the following symptoms or personality features:
a need to be the center of attention;
inappropriate, sexually seductive, or provocative behavior while interacting with others;
rapidly changing emotions and superficial expression of emotions;
vague and impressionistic speech (gives opinions without any supporting details);
easily influenced by others; and
believes relationships are more intimate than they are.
Prevention: The measures on the physical side should include a well-ordered hygienic mode of living, a nutritious and bland diet, adequate mental and physical rest, daily exercise, agreeable occupation, fresh air, regular hours of eating and sleeping, regulations of the bowels and wholesome companionship with others.
On the mental plane, there should be self-control and positive thinking. The mind must be drawn away from himself/herself. Proper sex education should be imparted.