Don’t Call Me Hysterical!
Historically most women have been deemed Hysterical or Crazy
Hysteria was the very first medical condition created exclusively for women. Its symptoms included anxiety, irritability, shortness of breath, nervousness, rigidity, hallucinations, emotional outbursts and forward sexual behaviours such as desire and sexual frustration and excessive lubrication. While some of these symptoms had root in other psychological and medical conditions, hysteria was used to treat female promiscuity, unfavourable behaviour and more generally unsavoury individuals.
Women as Hysterical
The term crazy has been used historically to discredit and undermine a women’s emotions. At its peak, leading to the creation of a fictional health condition used to lock up women deemed “Hysterical.” It was even used as a way out for men seeking a new wife, alongside being used to lock up women who had mental health conditions such as borderline personality disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Male Hysteria and PTSD
There are uses of Hysteria in reference to males, these usually are attributed to shell shock or war neurosis. This went on to shape theories of PTSD. The definitive difference was that males neurosis was rooted in the brain and often traumatic experience while females were rooted in the reproductive organs.
Even now when we think about the use of the word hysterical with males. Men who are more emotional (historically a feminine trait) are more likely to be called crazy or hysterical. More commonly, men are usually only hearing the term in reference to their ‘hysterical’ laughter, which is a positive use of the word.
Hysteria: As common as Fevers
Hysteria was the second most common illness, following fevers in the mid to late 1600s. Meaning every lady was at risk. Funnily enough, the cure for female hysteria was a "hysterical paroxysm," medical terminology for an orgasm. A specialist doctor existed that provided treatment including pelvic massages and douches with a high powered hose. As doctors sought to find other devices to substitute for their fingers during this “treatment” the vibrator was created to remove manual labour.
For extreme cases of forward sexual behaviours, women were placed in underpants that could not be undone alone, acting as a chastity belt but leading to accidents due to difficulty removing quickly. and were even strapped to their beds in hospitals, or held down onto their beds to control spasms and rigidity.
Hysteria and Crazy.
The medical use of the term ‘hysteria’ wasn’t limited until the 1950s, with “hysterical neurosis" remaining in the DSM (the Medical Bible) until the 1980s. Today Hysteria is rooted in the mind not the body and definitely not the uterus. The word can have positive or negative connotations by being hysterically emotional or laughing hysterically. With such a historical link between women and labels like hysterical, shaking the deeper meanings behind such words can be hard. Men and Women who are over-the-top, expressionable, or emotional would have been called words like crazy, annoying or hysterical throughout their lives.
Stay tuned for Fridays look at saying you’ve had a “Crazy” Ex and what it says about you.