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The clinical epidemiology of hysteria: vanishingly rare, or just vanishing?

Akagi, H. and House, A. (2002) The clinical epidemiology of hysteria: vanishingly rare, or just vanishing? Psychological Medicine, 32 (2). 191 -194. ISSN 0033-2917

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Vanish 1. intr. To disappear from sight or become invisible, esp. in a rapid and mysterious way (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1972).

There is a well-known view that hysteria has virtually disappeared in the Western world. There are two versions of this argument: one is that there was never a clinical disorder that coincided with the diagnosis, and hysteria has now been reconstructed as something else (e.g. Micale, 1993). The other is that hysteria did exist but has now become much rarer than it was (most famously, Veith, 1965). According to this view, hysteria is to be found in patients from developing countries, but in Western countries it is ‘virtually a historical curiosity’ (BMJ 1976). It is the latter view that is – in our experience – most commonly held by our colleagues in general psychiatry.

Yet, this opinion is not shared by those who are involved in the clinical care of patients with neurological disorders: ‘to a psychiatrist who sees patients on the medical and surgical services of a general hospital, it appears that hysteria remains a rather common phenomenon’ (Brownsberger, 1966). A number of descriptions from liaison psychiatry services support this opinion (Akagi & House, 2001). There are good reasons why it might be difficult to judge just how common (or rare) hysteria really is. Epidemiology depends on reliable case definition, case ascertainment and selection of a suitable population to study (Neugebauer et al. 1980), and each of these poses problems in the study of hysterical disorders.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2000 Cambridge University Press
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Medicine and Health (Leeds) > School of Medicine (Leeds) > Leeds Institute of Health Sciences (Leeds) > Academic Unit of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Assistant
Date Deposited: 25 May 2006
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2014 11:31
Published Version: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?...
Status: Published
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1017/S0033291701004962
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1224

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