Hysteria is a mental and nervous disorder arising from intense anxiety. It is characterized by a lack of control over acts and emotions and by sudden conclusive seizures and emotional outbursts. It often results from repressed mental conflict.

This disorder appears in both sexes but is far more common in young women of the age group between 14 and 25 years because of their natural sensitivity. In many cases, it tends to occur around the period of adolescence and becomes less frequent after the age of 25. It is uncommon after the age of forty-five years.

A wide range of symptoms are regarded as hysterical with attacks that may be sudden, provoked especially by strong feelings or may be heralded over a period of several hours.  The main symptoms include inappropriate elation or sadness, crying without cause, almost conclusive laughter, deep sighing, cramps in the limbs, mild rumblings in the belly and sense of constriction in the throat.

There are two symptoms of hysteria:

(1) The patient may feel heaviness in the limbs, more severe cramps, strong feeling of ascending abdominal constriction, continual sightings, difficulty in breathing, construction in the chest, palpitations, feeling of a foreign body lodged in the throat, swelling of the neck and of the jugular veins, suffocation, headache, clenched teeth, generalized and voluntary tensing of muscles of locomotion. The patient remains conscious during paroxysms. The convulsions are usually milder and occur more often during the bending and extending of limbs.

(2) Wild and painful cries, incomplete loss of consciousness, enormously swollen neck, violent and tumultuous heart-beats, involuntary locomotor muscle contraction, frightening generalized convulsions, violent movement and frequent spiting. The attack may last several hours. There may be a prompt return of consciousness immediately after the convulsions.

The psychical symptoms include a weakness of the will, a craving for love and sympathy and a tendency for emotional instability. Hysterical people tend to react too readily to suggestion and through this suggestibility, they are swayed greatly by their surroundings. The morbidly exaggerated moods led to impulsive conduct which may often seem irrational. Such people are misunderstood and misjudged. At times, there may be much absent-mindedness, and loss of memory about events or for definite periods. If this mental dissociation is severe, one may develop hysterical wandering attacks, a state of double consciousness or dual personality.

Hysterical trances may last for days or weeks. Here the patient seems to be in a deep sleep, but the muscles are not usually relaxed. In the most severe instance of this, the heart action and breathing may be scarcely apparent that death may be suspected and the person buried alive.

The most common causes of hysteria are sexual excess, or sexual repression, perverted habits of thought and idleness. Heredity plays an important part in its causation. A nervous family, taint and faulty emotional training, when young, are predisposing causes. The emotional shocks may have been caused by mental or physical factors such as mental strain, stress, fear, worry, depression, traumatism, masturbation and prolonged sickness.

Hysteria is an extremely mental phenomenon which may take varying forms. In certain types, the disorder may result from some situation to which one is unable to adapt oneself such as marriage, engagement, the position of responsibility, the death of relations or loss of love. Factors involving the sexual life in some way are frequently present.

A number of studies have indicated a possible connection between hysterical symptoms and organic brain disease. A patient with epilepsy has often been found to get hysterical attacks.

Drug intoxication is another organic brain disease closely associated with hysteria.