The Nervous System – The Nature Of Hysteria

“He’s crazy.”

Or, “You’re crazy.”

We say these really dreadful words carelessly many times a day. We don’t mean them literally. We mean, “He is incorrect on that subject,” or “His conception of that subject is out of focus.” But it takes too long to be that accurate.

At most we mean, “He’s hysterical.”

There are two great neuroses, opposite in action. One is the fatigue neurosis—neurasthenia or nervous prostration. And the other is hysteria or nervous excitement. Between the two of them they make up a large group of the patients in any doctor’s office, and a large part of the mental composition of any patient’s illness.

It is a little old-fashioned to classify the neuroses rigidly. Since Freud’s time, most psychologists believe in the “dynamic” viewpoint of them—that one may flow into another. Still, real hysteria remains a fairly well defined entity. The best description and the most fascinating reading account of it is in Janet’s “Major Symptoms of Hysteria.” Janet thinks that psychologically it is a dislocation of personality with an amnesia or forgetfulness of one part. Thus the paralytic hysteric forgets the part of him that is arm, the blind hysteric the part of him that is sight, the hysteric who throws the grand fit, forgets the entire part of him that is controlled and dignified.

It is a mistake to suppose that the hysteric is lacking in brain power or ability. He is not depressed as is the neurasthenic, or listless. Give him a good part and he will give you a good show.

The success of the treatment of hystericals depends partly on the severity of the case. They can nearly all be cleared up by psychological treatment and some of them stay so, but the severe ones almost always relapse.

I see that the Hay diet is recommended by the inmates—I mean the advocates, for the treatment of the neuroses. Sort of a nuts to the nutty—or similia similibus curantur.