Hysteria defined (Webster's): "A psychiatric condition variously characterized by emotional excitability, excessive anxiety, sensory and motor disturbances, or the unconscious simulation of organic disorders." Freud will concentrate on what we today call "psychosomatic" illnesses, that is, seemingly organic symptoms that in fact have a purely psychological origin.
The term hysteria was once used to define a medical condition that was assumed only to be caught only by women. Characteristics of this disease were partial paralysis, hallucinations and nervousness. The term is thought to have an origin of ancient Greek period. Many doctors (physicians) linked these characteristics with the movement of a woman's uterus throughout various positions in their temples (body). The term hysteria is from the Greek hystera, which means uterus.
In the late 1800s, hysteria started to be referred as to a psychological disorder. Freud's collaboration with colleague Josef Breuer on the case of Anna O., a young woman experiencing the symptoms of hysteria, catalyze the development of psychoanalytic therapy.
In modern days, psychology identifies two different types of conditions that were historically known as hysteria: dissociative disorders and somatoform disorders. “Dissociative disorders are psychological disorders that involve a dissociation or interruption in aspects of consciousness, including identity and memory. These types of disorders include dissociative fugue, dissociative identity disorder and dissociative amnesia”. (Freud, Sigmund. "The aetiology of hysteria." The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume III (1893-1899): Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. 1962. 187-221.)
“Somatoform disorder is a class of psychological disorder that involves physical symptoms that do not have a physical cause. These symptoms usually mimic real diseases or injuries. Such disorders include conversion disorder, body dysmporphic disorder and somatization disorder”. (Freud, Sigmund. "The aetiology of hysteria." The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume III (1893-1899): Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. 1962. 187-221.)
Moreover, this is why hysteria has usually been conceived as a pathology to which women are solely prone. Freud believed that real events could serve as the “trigger tool” that releases the hysterical symptoms. Hysteria, can lay "dormant" in one until its indicators are roused by some real-life event. These events were often called "provoking agents" by Freud; they serve to portray the genetic potential for hysteria, to transform it from slight possibility to concrete reality.
Understand, up until this particular period in the history, hysteria nature is given precedence over nurture. In the "womb" theory as well as in Freud’s hereditary theory, hysteria is looked at as something inescapable, as predetermined because it is somehow programmed into one's very physiological and genetic composition.
Freud adopts the concept of the "trigger" or the "provoking agent" that cause the hysterical symptoms to be awakened. The theory here is that the event that rouse the symptoms is not itself the main issue, but merely an orientation to a deeper root. The event serves as antagonist to invoke that cause. It is possible that Freud's theory of the "provoking agent" of hysteria influenced Freud's later idea of the "day residue" or "trigger" in dreams. For Freud, however, what this “trigger-tools” initiates are not a genetic predisposition, but rather: infantile experience.
Freud during his research and development of his theory did case/experiments, and wanted to discovered a single cause that all of his case studies have in common: this would be their uniform foundation and would hence point to the general etiology of hysteria. Freud had a hypothesis that the shared element was a traumatic experience in childhood that is uniformly of a SEXUAL...
Cited: Freud, Sigmund. "The aetiology of hysteria." The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume III (1893-1899): Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. 1962. 187-221.
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