Hysteria and somatization: what has changed?

Lazslo Antônio Ávila João Ricardo Terra About the authors

OBJECTIVE: Our aim is to propose a critical revision of the ways hysteria has been considered, with the use of progressively more technical and restrictive categories, discussing what may have been neglected in terms of the complex aspects concerning the hysterical condition. METHOD: Review of the relevant literature on this issue, the historical evolution of its concept and its clinical correlations. RESULTS: Clinical accounts of hysteria are being made for almost 2000 years, showing characteristics that are very similar to present-day descriptions. Hysteria seems to remain mostly unknown by medicine; there are important lacks in the knowledge of what can possibly be in the place of the old hysterical symptoms. What is clear, however, is that several new nosographical categories emerged in the last decades, such as fibromyalgia, the multiple chemical sensitivity or the somatization, which are, frequently, conceptually very imprecise. CONCLUSION: The construct hysteria is being more and more fragmented in the successive diagnostic classifications, but this fragmentation does not mean a great comprehension of its significance and development. The advances in the minudent description in the classificatory manuals, with the exclusion of the expression "hysteria" does not seem to represent an adequate strategy for a deeper understanding of this condition, nor for a better dealing of those patients.

Hysteria; somatization; diagnoses; psychosomatic medicine


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