February 26, 2007



The word, HYSTERIA, is Greek in origin and means, "WANDERING UTERUS." Medical treatment for hysterical, ancient greek women included a genital massage to put the wandering uterus back into its place. The procedure was supposed to have a calming effect on the signs and symptoms of histrionic women. By today's standards, ancient Greek doctors would be called sexist, get sued for malpractice and most likely lose their medical license. [Talk about rubbing someone the wrong way]. Those were certainly different times than today, but a couple things about this strike me as interesting:

What kind of medical treatment did hysterical men receive for their histrionic behavior during that time of human evolution? Men do not have a uterus, but can act hysterically.

Mass hysteria is a term commonly used to describe volumes of out-of-control people, who are probably in a panic due to hearing extremely negative information. For example, it is illegal to yell, "Fire," in a crowded theatre, despite our free speech, because to do so could lead to the trampling of people as everyone rushes to get out of the building at the same time.

Is "hysteria" an unmanaged fear over an imagined problem or is it just a wastebasket diagnosis given by doctors who don't have the foggiest idea what else to call it when someone's irrational behavior is driven by emotional excesses? What are the signs and symptoms of someone who is acting hysterically?

Some signs include:

Irrational or unreasonable behavior with an aggressive, dramatic, anxious and sometimes angry twist. Sometimes there is an insatiable need for attention for reasons of vanity. Behavior looks theatrical, over-the-top. The person can be obsessed with their appearance. Being flirtatious is common. Scarlet O'Hara is the poster woman for this type of personality disorder.

Yelling and screaming while jumping up and down and getting in someone's face to make a point is a specific example. Sometimes behavior like this is rewarded as evidenced by the phrase, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Sometimes behavior like this can take its toll on the body as evidenced by losing ones voice or vision during all the commotion.

Some symptoms include:

Extreme feelings of anxiety, agitation, restlessness and excitability or any subjective report that comes close to describing a "nervous breakdown."

Relationship Implications for the 21st Century:
  1. Histrionic behavior is one of five unreasonable types of personality disorders. The other four are borderline personality, anti-social, narcissistic, and obsessive-compulsive.
  2. Approximately, 2% of the population shows signs and symptoms of poor impulse control and irrational thinking that are manifested in hysterical behavior.
  3. Reasoning with unreasonable people is always a challenge because of the drama.
  4. Counseling can encourage a person to learn the skills it takes to become more resilient to stress. Meditation or prayer, a moderate exercise program, yoga and a diet that includes protein and complex carbohydrates are also helpful to a person motivated to learn self-calming techniques.
  5. Treat hysterical people with dignity and respect, but encourage them to get help.
Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor

No comments: