Encyclopedia > Hysteria

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Hysteria refers to a state of mind, one of unmanageable fear or emotional excesses. The fear is often centered on a body part, most often on an imagined problem with that body part (disease is a common complaint). People who are hysterical often lose self-control due to the overwhelming fear.

The term originates with a Greek medical term, hysterikos. This referred to a medical condition peculiar to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus. The same general definition came into widespread use in the late 1800s to describe what is today generally considered to be sexual disatisfaction. "Treatment" typically consisted of the use of vibrators or water sprays to cause orgasm. By the early 1900s the practice, and term, had fallen from use.

Today the term is most often used to describe mass public reactions, mass hysteria. It is commonly used to referrs to the waves of popular medical problems that "everyone gets" in response to news articles. The yuppy flu of the late 1980s and an unending chain of such ailments dating back to the advent of the press.

A similar usage referrs to any sort of "public wave" phenomenon, and has been used to describe the periodic widespread re-appearance and public interest in UFO reports, crop circles and similar examples.

See also:: conversion hysteria[?]

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