The Symptoms of Hysteria

Patient laughs or cries immoderately without cause; has hallucinations; all the senses perverted; morbidly sensitive to light and\sound; breast sensitive; pain in ovary; headache; wandering pains in the chest, abdomen, joints and spine, especially between the shoulders; loss of sensation in the skin; paralysis of certain muscles; sometimes loss of voice; sensation as of a ball rising in the throat; contraction of the muscles; violent spasms; disorder of digestion with symptoms of nervous dyspepsia; changeable temper; sometimes large quantity of pale urine; in some cases delirium or stupor.

The above is a very inadequate description of this peculiar disease; in fact, a complete description would include a list of the symptoms of all known diseases, since there is no known malady which may not be imitated by hysteria. The affection is not, as many people suppose, wholly an imaginary disease, but is really a malady of considerable gravity. A healthy person never suffers with hysteria. There is always some disease of the nerve centers, although it is not possible to say exactly what is the real nature of the disease. Many authors think that when it occurs in females, as it almost always does, the affection has a close relation with the ovaries. The peculiar phenomena exhibited by the "Jumpers" or "Jumping Frenchmen" of the lumbering regions of Maine, is probably due to a species of hysteria.

The Causes of Hysteria

Hysteria almost always occurs in females, and most frequently between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. In rare instances it affects men as well as women. We have met a few cases of this kind. The most common causes are sexual excesses, novel-reading, perverted habits of thought, and idleness. It occurs most frequently among young ladies who have been reared in luxury and who have never learned self-control, but who have had every whim and fancy gratified until self-gratification has come to be their greatest aim in life. It is a notable fact that hysteria rarely or never occurs among the women of uncivilized nations. It is stated that before the war, the disease was unknown among the negro women of the South, though it has occasionally been met with since the emancipation.