First Hysterical Responses

First Hysterical Responses
Hysteria and Paranoia Seminar
Earl Jackson, Jr.
Spring 1997

Preliminary Communications


Response 1

When I signed for this class I had no real prior knowledge about hysteria, or paranoia. I was aware that hysteria in particular is considered as tending to be more feminine than masculine. In earlier times if a woman voiced her opinions, or ideas then she could be considered as being a hysterical female. So far the class is proving to be interesting and very informative. Reading the case histories of some of the patients of hysteria has given me a better view about what the disease consists of.

In Studies on Hysteria, by Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, the case of Fraulein Anna O has proved to be fascinating. The way that her symptoms developed and were then traced back to when she was caring for her father. It is weird how such feelings were repressed and then manifested themselves in her illness. Such as when she saw a snake coming towards her father and, „she tried to keep the snake off, but it was as though she was paralysed. Her right arm, over the back of the chair, had gone to sleep and had become anaesthetic and paretic“ (Breuer 38). She then imagined that her fingers were snakes with death heads on the nails. According to Breuer this could be contributed to seeing the snake and the snake becoming a part of her hallucination. This is just one instance in many that Anna O had.

What really interests me is Anna O’s recovery to become such a
popular person. After spending time in an asylum it is remarkable that Anna was able to accomplish so much. She produced plays that were popular and can be attributed to her „inner theater“. Also learning that she was able to go about in society was also interesting. Anna O’s case shows that it is possible for people who are considered to have hysteria to lead productive lives.

Reading the case histories of people with hysteria has given me a better understanding of how the disease works. Contrary to popular belief women are not the only ones affected by this disease. It was exciting to see in the reader a case of male hysteria. Most people around the nineteenth century would scoff at the idea of a male having hysteria, but there is one proven case.

So far the class has proved to be informative and exciting. I don’t know if we can contribute hysteria and other diseases as being from a sexual standpoint. I know in lecture many agreed that this was so, but it is hard to believe that all humans think about is sexually related. With the case of Anna O her symptoms were caused by anxiety and from caring for her father. I saw no real sexual indications within the case history. Sexual desire is a strong instinct, but I don’t think that it is the basis for all problems, just most of them.

The case histories help show a history of hysteria as well as showing individual cases. The material so far in class has shown what motivates people who have hysteria. It is the repressed memories that are a cause for the disease to manifest later on. I hope to learn more about hysteria and paranoia.

Regress to STUDENT ONE Response
Advance to STUDENT THREE Response