European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 123–128


Pretending to be sick and its consequences
  • J. Jureidini
  • D. C. Taylor

DOI: 10.1007/s00787-002-0267-1

Cite this article as:
Jureidini, J. & Taylor, D. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2002) 11: 123. doi:10.1007/s00787-002-0267-1


Hysteria, as it involves the medical profession, is a form of sickness that is defined as being without disease or illness. This lack of a biomedical explanation has limited progress in its understanding. In this essay we propose that hysteria might be better thought of as a form of pretending, elaborated in transaction with the medical system. In medicine, to pretend usually means to deceive. From the perspective of play, however, pretend is a state more akin to acting, magic, belief, and hypnosis. We provide a number of reasons why sickness is an attractive focus for pretending. We show how enactments of sickness can be scripted by a group of involved persons, each contributing from their own perspective, as occurs in the parlour game of ‘Consequences’, except in hysteria the consequences are often dire.

Key words Hysteria – somatoform disorder – conversion disorder – pretend play

Copyright information

© Steinkopff-Verlag 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Jureidini
    • 1
  • D. C. Taylor
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychological Medicine, Women and Children's Hospital, 72 King William Road, North Adelaide, 5006, Australia.
  2. 2.The Wolfson Centre, Department of Neurology, Great Ormond Street Hospital and The Institute of Child Health, Mecklenburgh Square, London, WC1N 2AA, United KingdomGB