Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a problematic notion which can be an emotional condition, a syndrome, an extreme or over-reaction, or the physical signs of trauma. The term ‘hysteria’ was first used in Greece in the 5th century BC by Hippocratic doctors. They were trying to explain an illness whose symptoms were breathing difficulties and a sense of suffocation, and whose sufferers were seen chiefly to be recently bereaved widows. The explanation was thought to be a wandering womb putting pressure on other organs. The use that Sigmund Freud put to the term was rather different, but although there is no wandering womb in his notion of hysteria, there is still a mysterious leap from the emotional to the physical, from the mind to the body. What is hysteria? How can emotional experiences cause physical illnesses? And has hysteria’s association with old stereotypes of femininity put it off the modern medical map?

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  • Juliet Mitchell 3 episodes
    Professor of Psychoanalysis and Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge
  • Rachel Bowlby 2 episodes
    Professor of English at the University of York
  • Brett Kahr 2 episodes
    Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London

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Programme ID: p004y27w

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/p004y27w

Auto-category: 616.85 (Mental disorders and their treatment)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The term hysteria was first used in Greece in the 5th century BC by Hippocratic doctors.