Behavioral Symptoms
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Hysteria is a Common Side Effect of Anxiety

Wendy M Yoder, Ph.D.
Hysteria is a Common Side Effect of Anxiety

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.

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.

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.

Panic Disorder

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:

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.

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