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April 21, 1978

Hysterical Personality

Author Affiliations

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Iowa City

JAMA. 1978;239(16):1665-1666. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280430081027

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If not the oldest diagnostic category in the history of psychiatry, hysteria is certainly one of the oldest. The first chapter in this book, written by historian Ilza Veith, chronicles the changing concepts of hysteria and points to some crucial unanswered questions: Is hysteria a disorder limited to women, or does it occur in men? How do manifestations in men differ, or do they? How prevalent is it? Is it familial? If familial, is it learned through modeling, is it genetically transmitted, or is it multifactorial? What is the typical course? What are the typical complications? Why have the florid symptoms observed by Charcot or Freud become increasingly uncommon? What treatment approaches are most effective? Why?

This book does not provide answers for most of these questions. In part, they are unanswerable, because definitive research on hysteria has not as yet been completed. Apart from that unavoidable weakness, however, this