hysteria(redirected from anxiety hysteria)
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See A. Roy, ed., Hysteria (1982); E. Showalter, Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture (1997).
(from Greek hystera, uterus; in ancient times, hysteria was believed linked to uterine disease), a disease classified as a neurosis and characterized by various disturbances of the psyche, the motor sphere, sensitivity, and internal organs.
According to I. P. Pavlov, hysteria develops as a result of the predominance of the processes of excitation in higher nervous activity over the processes of inhibition; cortical regulation of subcortical excitation is insufficient, and the second signaling system is weak in comparison with the first. The weakness of the cortex and the predominance of the first signaling system determine the chaotic nature of the reactions, their emotivity, impulsiveness, and suggestibility. Many life stimuli are excessive for such persons and produce the extension of inhibition from the cerebral cortex to its subcortical areas, thus causing a hypnotic state of varying depth. Hysteria is manifested in a hysteric personality, hysterical attacks, and hysterical disturbances of consciousness and of the functions of internal organs.
The hysteric personality is characterized by mental instability, superficial and excitable emotionality, capriciously changeable tendencies, and the capacity for completely contradictory behavior. Hysterics combine inferiority feelings with the need to attract attention, role-playing, and showing-off; they take the imaginary for the real and subordinate reason and will to emotional impulse. Their attitude to the environment swings wildly and they change from sympathy to antipathy instantaneously.
Disturbances of mental activity in hysteria are expressed by psychotic phenomena—a state of increased irritability, depression, motionlessness, and indifference—and by disturbances of the will (most often in the form of abulia). In many cases there are paroxysmal seizures, or hysterical attacks, which are usually triggered by some irritant and accompanied by violent manifestations of emotion—weeping, cries, motor excitement, and falling—and by external manifestations of disturbances of consciousness, or loss of consciousness. Such attacks may be mistaken for epileptic ones, but they never entail any serious bodily harm or any disturbances that last in the postattack state.
Disturbances of sensitivity in hysteria involve precisely half the body, and sometimes a single extremity or the face. Also observed are functional (reversible) disturbances of movement and speech, blindness, deafness, gastrointestinal disturbances, and disorders of the cardiovascular system, the respiratory organs, and the genitourinary organs. In serious cases there is dimming of consciousness accompanied by vivid visual hallucinations and imaginal delirium.
Hysteria can be prevented by proper rearing by the family, school, and community organizations.
Treatment calls for psychotherapy, which helps the patient form a conscious and critical attitude toward himself and his place in objective reality, provides incentives to strengthen social bonds and to participate in activities with others, and develops attachments and responsiveness to people. Also used in treatment are occupational therapy, mental and will-power training, tranquilizers, and physiotherapy.
Ability to work is not impaired in hysterics, as a rule.
REFERENCESGannushkin, P. B. Izbrannye trudy. Moscow, 1964.
Davidenkov, S. N. Newozy. Leningrad, 1963.
Nevrozy. Edited by V. N. Miasishchev. Petrozavodsk, 1956.
V. N. MIASISHCHEV