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Hysteria is a neurotic illness in which a person has physical symptoms, and yet no physical cause can be found. The ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates was one of the first to identify this disorder. He noticed that hysteria was common in women and thought it was caused by a displaced uterus. The word hysteria comes from hystera, the Greek word for uterus. 

A person with hysteria may have any sort of physical complaint. The person may complain of heart disease, paralysis, sexual problems, stomach pains, vomiting, or weakness of the arms or the legs. In this way, hysteria may imitate any of many physical illnesses. Sometimes, the complaints are so frequent or severe that a doctor may think the patient actually has a physical illness, such as appendicitis. In these cases, the diagnosis of hysteria might not be made until surgery indicates that no physical illness is present. 

People are often called hysterical when they are upset, excited, and unable to control their feelings. We often hear of "hysterical weeping" or "hysterical rage." Such outbursts of feeling may have nothing to do with the disorder that psychiatrists call hysteria. In some cases, they occur in normal people. They may also occur in people who have mental illnesses other than hysteria, as well as in those with hysteria. 

Psychiatrists usually treat hysteria by using some type of psychotherapy or behaviour therapy. Treatment with drugs and hypnosis may also be used along with the psychotherapy. The causes of hysteria are still not known, but the disorder remains more common in women than in men.


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