hysteria

/hi ster"ee euh, -stear"-/, n.
1. an uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear, often characterized by irrationality, laughter, weeping, etc.
2. Psychoanal. a psychoneurotic disorder characterized by violent emotional outbreaks, disturbances of sensory and motor functions, and various abnormal effects due to autosuggestion.
3. Psychiatry. See conversion disorder. Cf. mass hysteria.
[1795-1805; HYSTER(IC) + -IA]

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Term formerly used in psychology to designate a neurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of psychic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral functions.

The concept was used frequently in the first half of the 20th century to explain a wide variety of symptoms and behaviours observed particularly in women. (The term derives from the Greek word for womb, reflecting the Greeks' belief that the condition resulted from disturbances of the uterus.) It was eventually dropped from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as overly broad. Disorders with symptoms similar to those of traditional hysteria include conversion disorder, factitious disorder, dissociative disorder, and personality disorder (histrionic type).

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Universalium. 2010.

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