HYSTERIA, CATALEPSY, TRANCE, AND ECSTASY.
Hysteria (Greek, huslera, the womb).—This is so remarkable and amazing a disease, having so many varied forms, and producing so many perplexing manifestations, that it is doubtful if any but the briefest notice of it is necessary in a work like this. It is a puzzle and plague to nearly every physician. It is apparently due to a peculiar nervous condition, not necessarily attended by any structural change or disease in the nervous organs. It does occur rarely in men, but is very common in women, most frequently between the ages of fifteen and thirty, and specially between the ages of fifteen and twenty. Very commonly it is associated with some disturbance of the genital organs, often slight in itself, but sufficient in the case of nervous girls to excite the manifestations of the disorder. In those liable to nervous dis turbance it may be induced by too luxurious and indolent habits, by unfortunate surround ings, badly directed training, and various other causes. The fact that men are, though rarely, affected with hysteria, is sufficient proof that it is not necessarily related in women to the genital organs. Yet it must never be over looked that some disorder, perhaps slight, of the organs of generation may be the exciting cause in women. In those liable to it, some such disturbance may occasion an attack, and the continuance of the condition may cause repeated recurrences of the attacks for a pro longed period. It is always, therefore, desirable to make sure that there is no such exciting cause at work, and this can only be done by a skilled physician-.
Symptoms. — Hysteria may produce symp toms referred to every organ of the body. Symptoms related to the digestive organs are frequent, such as loss of appetite, obstinate vomiting, costiveness, excessive development of gas in the bowels. Disturbance of the heart, fainting, &c., are common. Spasmodic seizures and fits of various kinds are of common occur rence. It is a spasmodic contracting of the throat, often excited by flatulence, that gives rise to the feeling of a ball in the throat com mon in hysteria, and which has been called globes hyslericus. Paralysis of the legs, loss of voice and speech, loss of feeling in various parts of the body, may all be the result of a hysterical condition. On the other hand, ex cessive tenderness of some part is frequent. Hysterical neuralgia, pain in a joint,: in the breast, in the head, or over the stomach are common. The determination of the true nature of these disturbances is a matter of great diffi culty. The mental condition of hysterical per
sons is also peculiar. They are nervous and excitable, prone to laugh or cry at trifles, with little control over their emotions, irritable, querulous, and quarrelsome.
Treatment.—The main element in treatment is firm and judicious control. If the person can be removed from the care of anxious friends and placed entirely under the discipline of strangers, much benefit will result. Hysterical convul sions can usually be cut short by dashing quan tities of cold water about the person's face.
Catalepsy is a peculiar nervous condition, in which the patient loses all consciousness. At the same time the muscles of the body become so stiff that if a limb be placed in any position, no matter how unusual or difficult to maintain in ordinary circumstances, that position will be kept for a considerable length of time. The condition may last from a few minutes to several hours; and it may pass off suddenly or slowly. rt is met with usually at the same age as hys teria, but it has occurred at as early an age as five years, and also in advanced life. During the attack the face is without expression and pale, and the movements of breathing are slowed, as also is the action of the heart.
The patient retains the position in which she was when seized. The muscles become rigid, and after this stiffness is overcome they become pliant, and can be moulded, as it were, like wax, into any position consistent with the integrity of the parts. This position will be maintained till the muscles become exhausted.
The surface of the body may become so cold that, the pulse and breathing being barely per ceptible, the condition may be mistaken for one of actual death.
Recovery is usually gradual. Attacks may occur at regular intervals, or irregularly and at long intervals ; and they may last a variable time, from a few minutes to some hours.
Trance is a condition resembling sleep, which usually comes on suddenly, without any apparent cause, and from which the person cannot be roused.
It occurs chiefly in women between the ages of twelve and thirty. It is a rare condition. The subjects of it are usually hysterical, and it occurs in some cases as the result of exhausting disease, or excited by some emotional disturb ance. It may last for a variable period, from several hours to many weeks or months. Dur ing its occurrence the countenance is pale, and the limbs are relaxed.