Hysteria is not a medical term. It's a term used to describe people whose emotions have caused them to lose control in some way. Often the idea of "hysteria" is that the emotions are so powerful that they become overwhelming. Usually, the feelings are more intense than the situation warrants.
Under this definition, many things can lead to a feeling of hysteria. Anxiety disorders absolutely lead to hysteria, and although they are not often thought of as "true" hysteria, they absolutely cause overwhelming emotions that can cause you significant distress, embarrassment, and fear.
Hysteria = Anxiety?
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Anxiety and Hysteria
Because hysteria is not a medical term, there are often alternative ideas for what constitutes hysteria and what does not. Not all "hysteria" is emotional. In some cases, a delusional belief may be hysteria - such as believing you're ill when you're not, or believing you're overweight when you aren't.
But in all definitions, anxiety appears to lead to "hysterical" symptoms. Make sure you take my anxiety test before reading onward, but let's use some anxiety disorder examples:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD can often lead to hysteria. PTSD often has triggers, where if the person experiences some event (like a loud noise), they start immediately reliving the trauma, and that can overwhelm them with negative emotions despite no actual danger taking place. The emotions can be so strong that they "break" and cannot seem to control them.
When someone's in the process of experiencing a panic attack, it may be argued that they're hysterical, because panic attacks themselves are an emotionally overwhelming response. Panic attacks occur when a person responds to a change in their body (however small) and feel like they're suffering from a heart attack, often with accompanying symptoms.
The symptoms are very real, but they're caused by anxiety - not by a heart attack, thus indicating that panic attacks are, in many ways, a hysterical response.
Severe reactions to phobias are another example of a hysterical response. While all phobias are irrational fears, in some cases a person may experience fear so extreme that they are completely overwhelmed, indicating that they have lost control of their emotions. They may scream, cry, or even come close to fainting as a result of this fear.
Other Anxieties and Hysteria
Anxiety itself may be considered hysteria, but the way people use the term tends to describe severe, emotional responses to their anxiety. All forms of anxiety, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and others, can have severe emotional reactions. This means they can all lead to hysteria.
In some cases, you may not even need extreme anxiety for anxiety to create hysteria. For some people, merely living with anxiety for an extended period can cause them to reach a point where they feel incredibly emotional, and possibly feeling like they've lost control of those emotions.
Can You Overcome Hysteria From Anxiety?
Hysteria isn't a symptom as much as it is a term to describe what living with anxiety is like, and what it can cause when it gets too severe. Because of that, as long as you're still living with anxiety, you are still going to suffer from hysteria.
But let's say you've reached a point where you feel like your emotions are spiraling out of control - either because of incredible fear or because anxiety has simply gotten too overwhelming. If possible, try the following:
- Walk Around The act of walking is surprisingly calming. Staying in one place makes it easier for your thoughts and symptoms to run wild. Ideally, you need to try to get walking to help stimulate blood flow, improve breathing, and create natural distractions that come from the sensations of walking.
- Call Someone Talking to someone on the phone can be very beneficial for decreasing hysteria. In some cases, it can be even better than talking to someone in person, because in person some people feel more embarrassed and pressured about their anxiety while on the phone that embarrassment tends to decrease. Talking to someone on the phone takes a surprising amount of brain power, which means that you're taking your mind off of your anxiety while also listening to a calming voice on the other end of the phone.
- Yell - Sometimes letting that emotion out is very important, and sometimes the best way to do that is to let out a great, loud yell. It's a way of accepting your emotions and stimulating your blood and energy. Obviously, you should make sure that no one is around (otherwise you may scare someone), but letting out a good, loud yell can make you feel better.
Each of these ideas is only going to provide a little bit of temporary relief from the severe emotions of anxiety, but they can be of some help. You will still need to decrease your anxiety substantially if you want this hysteria to go away forever.
I've helped thousands of those living with anxiety overcome their symptoms and their hysteria. Start with my free 7-minute anxiety test now, and find out how you can cure your anxiety fast.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Nov 29, 2017.