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Male Hysteria: Imagining a Case Through the Lens of Contextual and Clinical Change

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Abstract

Male hysteria in this article is viewed as a historical, developmental, theoretical, and clinical area of study. The article highlights the importance of contextualizing various views of male hysteria, and follows its ongoing struggle for recognition and legitimacy. Emphasis is placed on the importance of a contextually-nuanced clinical stance with the primary focus being the therapist’s listening perspective. The article describes shifts in my thinking and treatment of male hysteria over the past four decades. Conceptual shifts regarding treatment roughly parallel in time with the advances taking place in the broader field of psychoanalysis, and these shifts are illustrated in the case material provided.

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PRIOR to 1618, hysteria was said to occur only in women. The writings of Hippocrates,1 Galen,2 Aretaeus3 and Celsus4 make clear their belief that the condition never occurred in men. Caroli Pisonis (Charles Lepois),5 in 1618, was probably the first to suggest that hysteria could occur in men as well as in women. Since then, many authors6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 have reported what they term hysteria as occurring in men, although the frequency is low in men as compared with that in women.6 , 7 , 9 , 10 Briquet6 found that in 430 cases diagnosed hysteria only 1.6 per cent occurred in men; Savill,9 from a study of . . .
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