Body and Hysteria: Dissociated Body

  • Agueda Rojo-Pantoja


There is a recurring confusion about the terms and names used to describe dissociation and dissociative disorders. By this we mean somatic disorders, conversion disorders, dissociative disorders, Briquet syndrome, depersonalization disorder or split personality disorder, to mention just a few, without clear-cut boundaries among these diagnostic entities.

In order to describe the psychopathology of dissociative symptoms, it is useful to know the genesis of the disorder, the cultural-historical context that saw its birth and how it has evolved to the present day. We will be using the same term to refer to different clinical syndromes according to the age being dealt with.

It is common to relate dissociation with hysteria and hysteria with women. Today it is a well-known fact that these associations are not always clear. The idea of dissociation was coined by Pierre Janet in France in the late nineteenth century and was used to diagnose female patients who for the most part presented with hysteria, in a historical period and in a city in which hysteria was related solely to women. Prior to Janet, Charcot had already put forward a psychological explanation for hysteria, with traumas as triggers and somatic symptoms as the most significant manifestations. Freud later challenged the conversive mechanism with the dissociative one as an explanation for hysteria, and both terms have found their way into modern-day psychopathological descriptions, bringing about a chaos in terminology. We will try to shed light on the confusion created by the different terms and also try to prove that there is insufficient evidence to support the idea that dissociative disorders are predominantly found in women.


Body and hysteria Gender 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Agueda Rojo-Pantoja
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity Hospital ComplexVigoSpain

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