Hysterics, a spasmodic or convulsive disease, to which females chiefly are subject. It attacks them at uncertain intervals, and is usually preceded by a languor and debility of the whole frame. There is a violent pain in the head ; the eyes become dim, and shed in-voluntary tears : a sensation is felt similar to that of a globe rising from the lower part of the abdomen to the stomach ; and, at length, it reaches the throat, where it produces a sense of suffocation, a difficulty both of breathing and swallowing, while it is accompanied with great pains in the lower belly.
The general cause of hysterics is supposed to consist in too great a degree of mobility and irritability of the nervous system : whatever tends to enervate the body, may induce this complaint. Such are excessive heat, cold, terror, fear, grief, rage, acrid humours, ill smells, scorbutic affections, and glandular, obstructions. Hence it chiefly attacks females of weak, relaxed habits, though a few instances have occurred, in which men have also been affected.
Notwithstanding the very alarming nature of this disorder, it seldom terminates fatally, unless from erroneous treatment. It, however, admits only of palliation, as it has but in few instances been completely removed. The chief object is to counteract or prevent the pecu-liar convulsive affection which im-mediately precedes the attack. And though we are in possession of a remedy, sufficiently powerful to effect that desirable purpose, yet great circumspection is required in its use ; as, otherwise, the conse-. quences might be more distressing than the disease. This medicine is laudanum; which, judiciously administered, checks the most violent paroxysms for a considerable time, but cannot accomplish a cure. Hence asa-foetida may be given with greater advantage, though it disagrees with some persons, and occasions pain in the stomach and vomiting. Ipecacuanha, taken frequently in small doses, has sometimes been attended with success. To these may be added electricity, Peruvian bark, fetid matters presented to the organ of smell, such as burning feathers, or the smoke of sulphur, and the application of aether, strong volatile alkali, or other pungernt matters to the nostrils. Relief has also been obtained by the sudden affusion of cold water on the face and hands, but more frequently from the application of warm water, especially to the feet and legs. - In order to effect a radical cure, it will be requisite to resort to chalybeates, mineral waters, or other tonics, and especially to the cold bath, where the constitution can support it. The diet of hysteric patients ought to be light and nourishing ; they should carefully avoid whatever tends to relax the bowels or debilitate the system. Gentle exercise, and cheerful society, ought by no means to be neglected. Thus, by proper attention, this painful malady may possibly in the course of time be removed ; or at least so far palliated, that its attacks will be less frequent and violent.