chapter  2
10 Pages


If there were ever doubts that there is artistry in the science of medicine, the responsibilities of diagnosis alone would dispel them. Under one hospital roof may be found a wide variety of ailments in an assortment of patients who, though referred to different departments, are suffering from the same disease: hysteria. In the medical out-patient department is a schoolgirl with headaches and described as childish, a ‘dreamer’, versatile, impressionable and uncooperative. She does not appear to be very ill and there is little enough to go on, but in this context the characteristics of personality coupled with the headaches is called hysteria. Also in the department of medicine a 30year-old man recently went blind and soon afterwards developed a weakness of the right hand. It would not be far off the mark for a physician to think in terms of an early multiple sclerosis, but the case history says that this is a man suffering from hysteria. In the department of neurology a man recovered from an epileptic fit is cause for further diagnostic surprise. The report says this fit was no epilepsy; he, like the man with blindness, is suffering from hysteria. But what of the woman in the department of obstetrics with the large belly of a nine-months pregnancy? There is no sign of a foetus in the womb. Could this, too, be hysteria? It sounds highly suggestive. But no; this rather unexpected diagnosis is merely pseudocyesis.