For centuries, doctors readily diagnosed women with “hysteria,” an alleged mental health condition that explained away any behaviors or symptoms that made men…uncomfortable.
A fondness of writing, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and even infertility — for the best part of two centuries, all of these and more could easily fall under the umbrella of “female hysteria.”
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, female hysteria was one of the most commonly diagnosed “disorders.” But the mistaken notion that women are somehow predisposed to mental and behavioral conditions is much older than that.
In fact, the term hysteria originated in Ancient Greece. Hippocrates and Plato spoke of the womb, hystera, which they said tended to wander around the female body, causing an array of physical and mental conditions.
But what was female hysteria supposed to be, what were its symptoms, how did doctors “treat” it, and when did