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                                            I INTRODUCTION
                                            Hysteria, type of mental illness, in which emotionally laden mental
                                            conflicts appear as physical symptoms, called conversion reactions, or as
                                            severe mental dissociation. In modern psychological classification, hysteria
                                            is known as somatization disorder or conversion disorder, depending on
                                            the specific symptoms displayed. Psychiatric diagnosis of hysteria depends
                                            on recognition of a mental conflict and of the unconscious connections
                                            between conflict and symptoms. The term mass hysteria is applied to
                                            situations in which a large group of people exhibit the same kinds of
                                            physical symptoms with no organic cause. For example, one incident of
                                            mass hysteria reported in 1977 involved 57 members of a high school
                                            marching band who experienced headache, nausea, dizziness, and fainting
                                            after a football game. After a fruitless search for organic causes, researchers
                                            concluded that a heat reaction among a few band members had spread by
                                            emotional suggestion to other members of the band. The term collective
                                            stress reaction is now preferred for these situations.
                                            II CONVERSION REACTIONS
                                            Under the stress of mental conflict, anyone may react temporarily with
                                            physical symptoms. In conversion reactions, mental conflicts are
                                            unconsciously converted to symptoms that appear to be physical, but no
                                            organic cause is found. Common symptoms of conversion reactions include
muscular paralysis, blindness, deafness, and tremors.
Patients with conversion reactions may have periods of intense emotion and defective power of self-observation. In
such a mental condition, patients may interact with others in a bizarre way. Extreme symptoms of dissociation are
shown in dissociative fugue, in which a person forgets his or her identity and unexpectedly wanders away from home.
The ancient Greeks accounted for the instability and mobility of physical symptoms and of attacks of emotional
disturbance in women, when these were otherwise unaccountable, by a theory that the womb somehow became
transplanted to different positions. This “wandering of the uterus” theory gave the name hysteria (Greek hystera,
“uterus”) to disease phenomena characterized by highly emotional behavior. During the Middle Ages hysteria was
attributed to demonic possession and to witchcraft, which led to persecution.

As the sciences of anatomy and physiology developed in the 19th century, a tendency to interpret all mental
phenomena in terms of diseased structure of the brain became apparent in medical circles. At the end of the 19th
century, however, the French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot demonstrated that morbid ideas could produce
physical manifestations. Subsequently his pupil, the French psychologist Pierre Janet, formulated a description of
hysteria as a psychological disorder. Later Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud began to develop the theory that
hysterical symptoms are the result of conflict between the social and ethical standards of an individual and an
unsuccessfully repressed wish.

Modern treatment of hysteria consists of some form of psychotherapy and, in some cases, prolonged forms of analytic
psychotherapy, or of psychoanalysis. For cases of acute hysteria associated with anxiety, tranquilizing medication may
also be necessary (see Tranquilizer). see Mental Illness: Somatoform Disorders.

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