frued hysteria - Freuds Account of Hysteria Kaitlyn A....

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Freud’s Account of Hysteria Kaitlyn A. Herthel October 23, 2007 Freud & Feminism, 988:398
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Through Freud’s case studies on hysteria, he was able to critically analyze patients and shed new light on a neurosis which had not faced serious esteem in years past. His accounts specifically on Anna O. and Dora helped explain why the women were experiencing such psychical symptoms while working to cure them. In the process, Freud made great strides in the recognition of hysteria as a severe neurological disorder. Although Freud argued that hysteria was a result of sexual dissatisfaction, I will argue that it is rather a psychical response to emotional trauma, and that the patient’s unconscious is taking over to gain attention and fill a void that was once occupied so fondly before the initial trauma. Hysteria has roots dating back to Ancient Egypt in 1900 BC. To these people, hysteria was caused by “the flight of the uterus, which they considered to be a mobile, independent organism, up and away from its normal position” (Bernheimer 2). The wandering womb, as it came to be known, was held responsible for many ailments, even lack of appetite or anorexia, where the uterus would choke the stomach to block the passage of food. The cure could be achieved in one of two ways, either from “fumigat[ing] [the woman’s sexual parts] with fragrant substances to attract the migratory uterus from below, or vile-tasting and foul-smelling potions could be ingested to drive the deviant womb back from above” (Bernheimer 2). Hippocrates proposed curing hysteria by having the woman marry and have a child. This is the first time that hysteria was connected to a female sexuality, and the cure was in direct connection to a patriarchy. In Greek literature, hysteria was a general diagnosis to describe women’s respiratory difficulties. In keeping with the set precedent of hysteria being related to women’s sexual dissatisfaction, the Greeks believed that hysteria was mostly reserved for “mature 2
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women who were deprived of sexual relations; prolonged continence was believed to result in demonstrable organic changes in the womb” (Veith 10). A diagnosis of hysteria relates back to a patriarchal culture- if a woman does not have sex frequently and produce children, then she will develop symptoms alleging that her womb is traveling throughout her body. In Victorian times, femininity was synonymous with being gentile and fragile, and a woman’s illness supported this idea. Hysteria gradually faced a disappearance, which can be attributed to a lack of attention gain. As times changed and patients realized their outbreaks were no longer socially acceptable, their hysteric symptoms became outdated and disappeared. Sigmund Freud and James Breuer conducted critical case studies in which they
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This note was uploaded on 04/25/2008 for the course WOMENS STU 388 taught by Professor Grosz during the Fall '07 term at Rutgers.

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frued hysteria - Freuds Account of Hysteria Kaitlyn A....

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