Hysteria: It's baa-aack ...

The triumphant return of everyone's favorite female malady.

Published September 26, 2006 6:40PM (EDT)

Annoying news flash of the day: Hysteria, a condition traditionally discussed in dark and dismissive ways as a woman problem, seems to be a real affliction and not just a convenient figment of the male medical imagination.

The word itself derives from the Greek word for "uterus" and for centuries has been applied to women experiencing everything from postpartum depression to regular depression to sexual dissatisfaction to epilepsy, syphilis and cramps. It was Sigmund Freud who popularized the diagnosis before it lost ground to science and new medicine and fell out of vogue in the 1960s.

But according to today's New York Times, doctors are once again looking for a medical basis for hysteria. And while the Times article works hard to distinguish between new medical research and the crackpot mysogyny of the past, no doubt some knuckleheads out there will take this news as license to sling this term with the same frequency as PMS jokes.


By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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