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Hysteria 2

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Hysteria 2

'In the beginning was Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, who freed the emerging science from the chains of superstition, introduced empirical observation and the bedside manner, and both identified and named 'hysteria'' (Gilman 1993, 3). Hippocrates, lived in ancient Greece from 460 BCE to 377 BCE, the first [known] person to study hysterical actions believed (as did the proceding Greeks and Romans) that hysteria was strictly a female problem, and in many cases almost any problem a female had was considered 'hysteria' (Gilman 1993, 4). This view was believed for an extensive period of time but as Appignanesi asserts many other things that were once believed to be true are proven false later, i.e., the earth is the center of the universe [Copernicus, 1473-1543], God did not create man, instead we evolved from apes [Darwin, 1809-1882] (100). This holds true for the concept of hysteria being strictly a female problem.

Hysteria (as we know it today at least) is where specific memories, feelings, perceptions are taken from the conscious to the un/sub-conscious and are 'unable' to be recalled voluntarily. Furthermore they are able to affect the persons behavior in a variety of ways, from phobias to paralysis. Almost any organ or part of the body can be the scapegoat for the hysteric. Hysteria usually comes from feelings or memories which are particularly unpleasant for one reason or another. Freud would argue that more often then not (if not always) hysteria is related to sex or sexuality.

If there was one person to name as the 'father' of the modern view of hysteria it would hands down be Sigmund Freud. His analyses of hysterical persons has defined everything from the process of diving into the un/sub-conscious mind to retrieve the root of the problem to connecting the problem to the symptoms of hysteria. One of most widely known case studies is that of a young lady whom Freud has given the alias of 'Dora'. Dora first met Freud at the age of 16 when her father brought her to Freud because she ''had'grown unmistakably neurotic.' (Freud, 13). Two years proceeding their [Freud and Dora] first introduction her father brought her to Freud for ''psychotherapeutic treatment.' (Freud, 13) Freud had met most of Dora's family prior to her 'treatment' and stated that 'There could be no doubt'that it was from her father's family that she [Dora] had derived not only her natural gifts and her intellectual precocity but also the predisposition to her illness.' (Freud, 13) Dora's hysteria was strongly influenced if not derived specifically from family affairs. Her mother suffered from 'house wife's psychosis', her fathers brother was a hypochondriac, her fathers sister was extremely neurotic. Dora had one brother who had a strange connection with her. In the words of Freud, ''her brother was as a rule the first to start an illness and used to have it very slightly, and then she would follow suit with a severe form of it.' (15). Her brother (one and a half years older then her), who tried to stay out of family affairs, when involved would side with his mother over Dora or her father. This fits well with Freuds oedipal theories. In fact much of Freuds analysis of Dora uncovered 'repressed' sexual desires.

Around the age of eight Dora began to develop neurotic symptoms. Their family doctor diagnosed the ailments as strictly mental and not physical. This is the precursor to her hysteria, as hysteria is strictly a mental syndrome which can affect the physical body but resides in the confines of the mind. At the age of twelve Dora suffered severe migraine headaches and random attacks of nervous coughing. These usually went together but as the illness developed the afflictions came separately. By the age of 16 the coughing had totally although the coughing or tussis nervosa got worse and would last up to several months. 'The most troublesome symptom during the first half of an attack of this kind' [is] a complete loss of voice.' (Freud, 15) This again shows how something mind can affect the body in a dangerous manner. Other cases of hysterics can lead to more disturbing results, i.e., paralysis and hydrophobia as seen in the case study of Anna O. (another of Freud's successful patients.) (Appignanesi, 29-31) The basic factors of Doras hysteria are as follows. She has a repressed sexual attraction to her father (back to the oedipal complex, which Freud uses to describe the hysteria) her father is having an affair with 'Frau K.' Her mother therefore receives no sexual pleasure from her husband/Dora's father. While Frau K. and Dora's father have the affair Herr K. (Frau K's husband) is trying to have a sexual relationship with Dora. Dora's father and Herr K. almost certainly know of each others actions, that Dora's father is having an affair with his wife, and Dora's father knows that Herr K. is attempting to have a relationship with Dora. Neither of the two gentlemen do anything about it, they pretend to not know of each others actions as to keep their actions safe. If Dora's father confronted Herr ...

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