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Female hysteria

You can of course thank Sigmund Freud for illuminating or stigmatizing the better half in a condition called female hysteria. "The pejorative [definition] would be emotional excess,” Baker explains, “women who could not manage their emotions and exhibited conversion disorders." Symptoms included fainting, nervousness, muscle spasms, loss of physical control.

The diagnosis lingered through the second-half of the 50th century, and testified to how so much of American psychology was tied to Freudian theory. One of the most popular treatments for hysteria was hypnosis, as demonstrated by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (above), although he would later question his own theories. Freud studied under Charcot and would even name his firstborn, but the student would later depart from the master and dispute the neurological, aka physical, origins of female hysteria.

"Madness" no more: How definitions of mental illness have changed over the years

By Vera H-C Chan and Claudine Zap

In 1952, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders weighed in at a wispy 50 pages. In 1994, DSM-IV numbered 943 pages. The DSM-5 will actually be less than that — still, when comparing the versions, "one thing you're struck with right away is the increase of diagnostic categories," says David Baker, director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron. "It's largely a kind of a mirror on the culture... It's not purely objective."



Not surprisingly, well before the DSM came into existence, respected intellectuals were espousing psychological theories on why females went into hysterics, the sickness that made slaves want to run from their masters, and the upper-class ailment triggered by hard work and social upheaval. Here’s a look at disorders, past and present, that fell out of fashion, got caught up in other illnesses, or changed its name.