Pic : from ‘Hysterica & The Wandering Womb’ , York Univ. Canada Cine Festival 2004

Hysteria : The word itself seems murky, more than a little misogynistic and all too indebted to the theorizing of the now-unfashionable Freud. More than one doctor has called it “the diagnosis that dare not speak its name.”

Nor has brain science paid the diagnosis much attention. For much of the 20th century, the search for a neurological basis for hysteria was ignored. The growth of the ability to capture images of the brain in action has begun to change that situation.

Hysteria actually predates Freud. The word itself derives from “hystera,” Greek for uterus, and ancient doctors attributed a number of female maladies to a starved or misplaced womb. Hippocrates built on the uterine theory; marriage was among his recommended treatments.

Then came the saints, the shamans and the demon-possessed. In the 17th century, hysteria was said to be the second most common disease, after fever. In the 19th century, the French neurologists Jean-Martin Charcot and Pierre Janet laid the groundwork for contemporary approaches to the disease. Then Charcot’s student, a young neurologist named Sigmund Freud, radically changed the landscape and, some argue, popularized hysteria.

Please read the complete article at this New York Times link. No one has so far been able to explain why women are more prone to this malady.

ps: now don’t ask me why I posted this on my blog !