Female Hysteria and
Female hysteria was a once-common medical diagnosis, made exclusively in
women, which is today no longer recognized by modern medical authorities as
a medical disorder. Although it Is physical, it is also psychological. Its diagnosis
and treatment were routine for many hundreds of years in Western Europe.
Hysteria was widely discussed in the medical literature of the Victorian era.
Now we have "Sexology" which majors in the sexual health of todays men and
Women considered to be suffering from it, exhibited a wide array of symptoms
including faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in
abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, significant weight
gain, loss of appetite, lack of desire to perform various activities and "an
unaware tendency to cause trouble"
Since ancient times women considered to be suffering from hysteria would
sometimes undergo "pelvic massage" — manual stimulation of the genitals by
the doctor until the patient experienced "hysterical paroxysm" (orgasm).
The history of hysteria can be traced to ancient times; in ancient Greece it was
described in the gynecological treatises of the Hippocratic corpus, which date
from the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. Plato's dialogue Timaeus tells of the uterus
wandering throughout a woman’s body, strangling the victim as it reaches the
chest and causing disease. (In these days we just call it horny, lol) This theory is
the source of the name, which stems from the Greek word for uterus, hysteria
(ὑστέρα). It is not a joke though. Our body needs all the hormones to function
properly... experiencing an orgasm awakens and stimulates the production and
release of endorphins, and who knows what other hormones it may release
that have not been discovered and studied yet, because they are only released
during an orgasm, they may even be undetectable... What I do know for a fact,
is that women (and men) who have regular release stay physically younger,
look younger, feel younger and are "much healthier" physically and mentally
than women and men who do not, or who have sex often, but without Any
Galen, a prominent physician from the second century, wrote that hysteria was
a disease caused by sexual deprivation in particularly passionate women:
hysteria was noted quite often in virgins, nuns, widows, as well as neglected
married women. The prescription in medieval and renaissance medicine was
intercourse if married, marriage if single, or vaginal massage (pelvic massage)
by a midwife as a last recourse.
There were specialty medical professionals and noted scientists, who dealt
specifically with this issue, and studied women trying to find a cure. I now
consider them our modern day OB GYN's, lol. The problem is, if your
gynecologist recommended manual stimulation, the woman would sue his butt
and brand him a pervert. Some sexologist will provide this service in your area,
but everyone is afraid/too ashamed to ask.
There were many methods to treat hysteria. One of them was to sit the woman
in a chair with her legs spread and then a stream of water was used to stimulate
her genitals. I can assume you probably know what that feels like, many
women confess to pleasuring them selves in the shower ;)
The photo below seems a little threatening/ definitely exaggerated, just look at
the size of the hose, duh, it would wash her clear out of the room, lol...
I only posted it for documentation:
Water massages as a treatment for hysteria. 1860.
The other was to masturbate her genitals till she achieves an orgasm. Some
used gentle, pulsating electrical currents called tens to stimulate an orgasm.
More about this now:
A physician in 1859 claimed that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria.
One physician cataloged 75 pages of possible symptoms of hysteria and called
the list incomplete almost any ailment could fit the diagnosis. Physicians
thought that the stresses associated with modern life caused civilized women to
be both more susceptible to nervous disorders and to develop faulty
reproductive tracts. In America, such disorders in women reaffirmed that the
United States was on par with Europe; one American physician expressed
pleasure that the country was ”catching up” to Europe in the prevalence of
Rachael P. Maines has observed that such cases were quite profitable for
physicians, since the patients were at no risk of death, but needed constant
treatment. The only problem was that physicians did not enjoy the tedious task
of vaginal massage (generally referred to as 'pelvic massage'): The technique
was difficult for a physician to master and could take hours to achieve
"hysterical paroxysm." Referral to midwives, which had been common practice,
meant a loss of business for the physician.
Advertisement from 1910.
A solution was the invention of massage devices, which shortened treatment
from hours to minutes, removing the need for midwives and increasing a
physician’s treatment capacity. Already at the turn of the century, hydrotherapy
devices were available at Bath, and by the mid-19th century, they were popular
at many high-profile bathing resorts across Europe and in America. By 1870, a
clockwork-driven vibrator was available for physicians. In 1873, the first
electromechanical vibrator was used at an asylum in France for the treatment
While physicians of the period acknowledged that the disorder stemmed from
sexual dissatisfaction, they seemed unaware of or unwilling to admit the sexual
purposes of the devices used to treat it. In fact, the introduction of the speculum
was far more controversial than that of the vibrator.
A 1918 Sears, Roebuck and Co. ad with several models of vibrators.
By the turn of the century, the spread of home electricity brought the vibrator
to the consumer market. The appeal of cheaper treatment in the privacy of
one’s own home understandably made the vibrator a popular early home
appliance. In fact, the electric home vibrator was on the market before many
other home appliance ’essentials’: nine years before the electric vacuum cleaner
and 10 years before the electric iron. A page from a Sears catalog of home
electrical appliances from 1918 includes a portable vibrator with attachments,
billed as ”Very useful and satisfactory for home service.”
Other cures for female hysteria included bed rest, raw foods, seclusion,
refraining from physically & mentally taxing tasks (for example, running,
performing chores or even reading) and sensory deprivation (peace, silence and
Is Hysteria Real?
From the beginning of time God has created us to fill the Earth, He has
made us all sexual beings by nature. We need another's touch, we need
someone to talk to, we need love, intimacy and human interaction at all
times. Even our physical bodies crave it, long for it and let us know
when it's time to satisfy our needs through physical symptoms. No one
can explain how and why we get depressed when we are lonely, why we
get horny, or get blue balls, why we start having mental problems when
we are deprived of the things we were made to do.
Our bodies are connected, organ to organ, tissue to tissue, nerve ending
to nerve ending, we are an amazing species, so full of beauty and
wander. Doctors are still discovering new things, new functions, and
learning things they never even imagined were possible, and we develop
new illnesses and immunities, and it will go on as long as we exist.
Lack of sexual satisfaction and intimacy is still the biggest cause for
Single women as well as females in a relationships who do not get
regular release, are most likely to suffer mental and physical discomfort,
and no matter what the scientists and doctors choose to call it... It's
very real, and it has been for centuries.
Scientific research and medical articles all state: "The thing all patients
have in common, is that they are not faking the illness".
Throughout time and name changes, women have kept getting sick.
“The symptoms themselves have never changed,” said Patrik
Vuilleumier, a neurologist at the University of Geneva. “They are still
common in practice.”
Common, perhaps. Well studied, no. There is still no consensus on how
hysteria, (now "conversion disorder") should be classified, and not all
physicians agree on diagnostic criteria. The epidemiology is hazy; one
commonly cited statistic is that this disorder effects 76 percent of All
women around the world.
Here is a very cool theater production I watched:
IN THE NEXT ROOM or the vibrator play
Lyceum Theater Lincoln Center NY
What exactly were doctors thinking back in the 1880s at the dawn of
the age of electricity, when they utilized vibrator therapies on their
female patients in the name of medical treatment?
And what did the women think was happening to them when doctors
allayed their so-called 'hysteria' with a very personal newfangled
machine? That's what Sarah Ruhl wondered when she set out to write
IN THE NEXT ROOM or the vibrator play.
Hysteria was a real diagnosis, and a quite common one given to women
in the Victorian age. Just as common was medical treatment with
electrical stimulating machines, the vibrators of the day, to ease their
IN THE NEXT ROOM or the vibrator play is a provocative, funny,
touching and marvelously entertaining story about a young doctor and
his wife. Dr. Givings (Michael Cerveris) is obsessed with the marvels of
technology and what they can do for his patients.
His wife, Catherine, (Laura Benanti) is only a bystander in her
husband's world - listening at the door from the next room as he treats
his female patients. Dr. Givings is not sure exactly how the vibrators
help the women he treats - but they do keep coming back. The only
woman whose problem is not helped by the doctor is his own wife who
longs to connect with him - but not electrically.
Three years after her New York debut with The Clean House at the
Newhouse, Sarah Ruhl returned to LCT, in our 25th anniversary season,
to make her Broadway debut with IN THE NEXT ROOM or the vibrator
play. Les Waters, who staged the play's acclaimed debut production last
season at Berkeley Rep, directed for Broadway.