Hysteria: Meaning; Causes, Symptoms, Types & Treatment

Reviewed by experts

hysteria - livayur

Have you ever seen someone clenching their fist or gritting their teeth in a fit of rage or anxiety? That could be a sign of hysteria!

Hysteria is a term used to explain a complex and often misunderstood medical condition that has been a controversial and debatable topic throughout history. It is a term used to describe various unmanageable emotions exhibited by an individual but is often difficult to diagnose and treat. Since the word “hysteria” originates from the Greek word for uterus, historically, female hysteria was believed to be the norm and was thought to be a condition that affected only women. However, it has been proven that hysteria is an extreme psychological condition in which a person reacts to a stimulus in an out-of-proportion manner. [1] 

Apart from this, it has also been seen that the condition can affect anyone, irrespective of gender, and has a range of causes and symptoms. The cause can be psychological, neurological, or other medical reasons. Its manifestations can be shortness of breath, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, nervousness, or sexually forward behavior.[1]

In this article, we will explore the hysteria meaning, the causes of hysteria, symptoms, types, and the available hysteria treatment.

Meaning of Hysteria

Hysteria meaning is fundamentally a clinical condition that includes both “somatoform” and “dissociative” disorders. The psychopathological state is a curable condition if identified early and managed appropriately.

Hippocrates coined the term, and it stands for a mental health disorder that comprises sensory, motor, and psychic disturbances. It manifests in the form of mental instability, fits of rage, and anxiety but continues to remain the symptom of a disease inflicted by specific physical or psychological trauma.[2]

Hysteria is associated with other underlying mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

Types of hysteria

Hysteria manifests in two forms:

Primary hysteria: This is rooted in significant personality disorders, often presenting challenges in treatment due to their complex nature.

Secondary hysteria: Stemming from conditions like anxiety or depression, this can be effectively addressed by targeting the underlying causes. Treatment approaches may involve the use of anxiolytics and antidepressants to support these individuals.

Some examples of hysteria

  1. Choreomania in the Middle Ages: Groups across Europe danced uncontrollably until exhaustion, possibly linked to a fear of St. Vitus and his purported ability to induce dancing.
  1. Hand and arm tremors in European girls’ schools (late 1800s): Students confined to specific classes or times experienced tremors, convulsions, laughter, and amnesia, without affecting them outside school hours.
  1. Vaccine side effects in Jordan (1998): Around 800 children exhibited symptoms presumed to be vaccine reactions. However, medical investigation revealed most had not reacted to the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine.
  1. Tic outbreaks: Worldwide occurrences in 2011, 2020, and 2021 showed instances of motor symptoms, facial tics, altered speech, and vocal tic-like behaviors. These symptoms, especially among girls and women were linked to social media exposure, particularly TikTok videos featuring individuals with tic and movement disorders.

What causes hysteria?

The causes of hysteria can vary significantly from person to person and between situations. It may range from general upbringing to mental and physical abuse. Here are some of the most known factors that lead to hysteria disease:

  1. Long durations of idleness of a person can have a mental impact
  2. Heredity
  3. Being sexually repressed leads to perverted thought processes
  4. Incorrect emotional training during the growing up years of a child and family background
  5. A sudden meeting with a friend or relative who may be objectionable
  6. Long bouts of depression, fear, worry, trauma, mental strain, and sickness can lead to emotional meltdowns
  7. Death in the family or of a loved one
  8. Unprecedented failure in job/business
  9. Mental trauma or physical bruise of great severity from the past
  10. Bitterness and false allegations made by someone [1]

What are the common hysteria triggers?

1. Heredity as a factor:

Hereditary predisposition may contribute to the onset of hysteria.

2. Upbringing and emotional conditioning:

Faulty emotional training during childhood within the family background can influence susceptibility to hysteria.

3. Emotional triggers:

Fear, worry, depression, mental strain, trauma, and prolonged illness can create emotional circumstances that foster hysteria.

4. Unexpected encounters and events:

Sudden encounters with undesirable relatives or friends, the death of a loved one, unexpected business failures, or loss can serve as triggers for hysteria.

5. Impact of words and allegations:

Instances like receiving bitter words or false allegations from someone can precipitate hysteria.

6. Past trauma and mental impact:

Severe mental trauma or physical injury from the past, alongside factors like idleness or sexual repression leading to perverted thought habits, can also contribute to the development of hysteria. [1]

Hysteria disease symptoms

A variety of hysteria symptoms may manifest in a person who suffers from hysteria disease. These may include frustration, intolerance, irritability, whimsical behavior, intolerance, and emotional dependence, to name a few. Some common symptoms include:

  1. One of the most common hysteria symptoms in females and males is displaying amplified feelings in the form of sobbing and throwing tantrums.
  2. Cramps in the arms and legs
  3. Constriction in the abdomen
  4. Headache, suffocation, palpitation
  5. Swelling in the neck
  6. Clenched teeth
  7. Urge to laugh or cry for no apparent reason.
  8. Convulsions, violent heartbeat, poor willpower, emotional instability
  9. Constriction in the throat [1]

Hysteria treatment

While no particular drugs are available for hysteria treatment, a patient with hysteria can be treated with certain stress-busting and mind-calming Ayurvedic herbs such as Ashwagandha, Jatamansi, Brahmi. These herbs can control emotional outbursts and promote restorative sleep. 

There are also a variety of approaches to which a hysteria patient can be exposed to see what is most effective. Apart from psychiatric and psychological treatments, it should also include neurologists, cardiologists, and family therapists. Here are some therapies that are often applied when dealing with hysteria disease:

1. Behavioral therapy

In this, a patient is kept under observation where they are scanned for symptoms that are dealt with in specific ways upon identification. These include teaching different techniques to help them cope better and reduce the severity of the symptoms.

2. Psychodynamic therapy

While this is often used to assist a patient in gaining insight, it will fail in the case of a candidate suffering from demotivation, less intelligence, lack of the ability to introspect, or one inclined towards behavioral acting.

3. Supportive therapy that is insight-oriented

Through this therapy, a patient suffering from hysteria greatly benefits by making them aware of where exactly the problem lies. In this manner, they receive an insight into their condition and the exact stimulus that generated a specific response from them. [1]

4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that assists individuals in recognizing and altering harmful or disruptive thought patterns that impact their behavior and emotions negatively. It essentially focuses on identifying and modifying these negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to hysteria.

5. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT):

Dialectical behavior therapy is an adapted form of cognitive behavioral therapy aimed at guiding individuals to embrace the present, cultivate effective stress-coping mechanisms, regulate emotions, and enhance interpersonal connections. Apart from regulating emotions and improving interpersonal skills, it emphasizes fostering mindfulness to manage symptoms of hysteria.

6. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR):

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach utilizing rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation. It aids individuals in recovering from trauma or distressing life experiences.

This therapy incorporates rhythmic eye movements from left to right, coupled with focused attention on traumatic memories, aiming to diminish their emotional impact. By engaging with these memories, the therapy facilitates healing from the fear and distress associated with the trauma, gradually reducing or eliminating negative responses to those memories over time.

7. Mindfulness-based therapy:

Involves techniques to enhance present-moment awareness, helping individuals with hysteria manage stress and emotions more effectively.

8. Medications:

At times, medications can complement symptom management. Medications like amitriptyline, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and St. John’s wort have shown effectiveness in alleviating symptoms associated with somatic symptom disorder.


1. What was the first treatment developed for hysteria disease?

Female hysteria was initially the norm as the condition was only associated with women who were written off as demented or deprived of enough orgasms in ancient Greece. Thus, the majority of available treatments revolved around women suffering from hysteria and involved the idea that sex was the remedy that could help women overcome these conditions. [3]Ayurvedic

2. Is hysteria still considered a disease?

In several Western countries, hysteria disease has taken on newer identities now and is referred to as conversion or functional disorders.

3. Is there a way to prevent hysteria?

Experts have offered specific tips to prevent hysteria which include practicing mindfulness, doing breathing exercises, getting physically active, writing a journal, and adhering to a regular sleeping schedule.

4. Can you describe the stages associated with hysteria symptoms?

Hysteria symptoms are categorized into four stages: the epileptoid stage, the stage characterized by clownish or contorted behavior, the stage involving hallucinations and intense emotional displays, and the final stage marked by delirium.

5. What immediate steps can be taken when dealing with hysteria?

In a first-aid scenario involving hysteria, the initial approach is to prioritize calming the affected individual. If a bystander is becoming hysterical, it is essential to relocate them away from the patient to avoid further agitation. Maintaining a composed tone, offering clear instructions, and patiently assisting in their relaxation are key steps toward calming them down.


Hysteria is a psychological and emotional disorder associated with only women for years together. This article delves deeper into the actual hysterical meaning, its causes, hysteria symptoms, treatments, and much more. Sometimes making lifestyle modifications and practicing various forms of exercise and meditation can go a long way in dealing with hysteria.


This article has been written for informational reasons solely and should not be taken as medical advice. If you think you are hysterical, please talk to a medical expert.


  1. Overview of Hysteria; Introduction, Review, Causes, Signs And Symptoms, Complications And Management
  2. “Hysteria” in clinical neurology
  3. Women And Hysteria In The History Of Mental Health

Dr. Shankar Rao

Dr. Rao has achieved great success in his career, with 5 research projects and 4 books to his credit, as well as a Monograph. In addition to receiving the Bharat Scout & Guide Award from the President of India, Dr Rao has also won the Young Scientist Award from S.V. University, Tirupati.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here