Hysteria is 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). People who are "hysterical" often lose self-control due to the overwhelming fear.
The term originates with the Greek medical term, hysterikos. This referred to a supposed medical condition, peculiar to women, caused by disturbances of the uterus, hystera in Greek. The term hysteria was coined by Hippocrates, who thought that the cause of hysteria was irregular movement of blood from the uterus to the brain.
The same general definition came into widespread use in the late 1800s to describe what is today generally considered to be sexual dissatisfaction. "Treatment" typically consisted of the use of vibrators or water sprays to cause orgasm. By the early 1900s the practice, and usage of the term, had fallen from use, until it was again popularised when the writings of Sigmund Freud became known and influential in Britain and the USA in the 1920s. The Freudian psychoanalytic school of psychology uses its own, somewhat controversial, ways to treat hysteria.
The knowledge of hysterical processes was advanced by the work of Jean-Martin Charcot, a French neurologist. However, many now consider hysteria to be a 'legacy diagnosis' (i.e.: a catch-all junk diagnosis).
The term also occurs in the phrase mass hysteria to describe mass public near-panic reactions. It is commonly applied to the waves of popular medical problems that "everyone gets" in response to news articles, such as the yuppy flu of the late 1980s and other ailments dating back to the advent of the press.
A similar usage refers to any sort of "public wave" phenomenon, and has been used to describe the periodic widespread reappearance and public interest in UFO reports, crop circles, and similar examples. Also, when information, real or fake, becomes misinterpreted but believed.
Hysteria is often associated with movements like the Salem Witch Trials, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, and Satanic abuse, where it is better understood through the related sociological term of moral panic.
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