‘Hysteria’ has always eluded clear definition, yet it is always with us, changing in every generation. Slater’s (1965) attempt to deny its existence, saying it was ‘not only a delusion but a snare’, was based on a highly unusual series of patients with obscure neurological syndromes, and even he found some patients with the hysterical illnesses of classical psychiatry. The approach to clarification lies through considering hysterical illnesses first as the paradigm, and approaching the peripheral concepts, such as hysterical personality and mass hysteria, later.
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