From ArticleWorld

Hysteria is a mental state that refers to an unmanageable fear and a loss of self-control because of it. Many times, it can involve a belief that there is a problem with a part of the body.

The history of the word is an interesting one and explains why it revolves around body parts. The word for uterus in ancient Greek is ‘hystera’ and to refer to a female complaint involving the uterus, Hippocrates used the word ‘hysteria’. He supposed the complaint to be caused by problems with the blood flow between the uterus and the brain.

To continue the feminine connection with the word, ‘female hysteria’ was treated in the late 1800’s with an intimate massage by a physician with the goal of the female patient reaching orgasm. It is a condition we now term sexual dissatisfaction. The complaint and treatment methods went out of fashion only to be resurrected by Freud in the 1920’s.

It is now used to refer to a fear, which is not based on fact, about any part of the body, not just the female reproductive system though it must be said that the condition affects more women than men. French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, worked on the process of hysteria but today the term is more often replaced by dissociation.

Other definitions

Hysteria can also refer to a widespread panic usually caused by rumours or media reports which is termed mass hysteria. The Orson Well’s production of the War of the Worlds caused such a reaction. As a sociological term, it describes the moral panic of, for example, the Salem witch hunts and McCarthyism.