European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 123–128 | Cite as

Hysteria

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

Abstract.

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 

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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. jureidinij@wch.sa.gov.auAU
  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

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