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Lowenfeld, H. (1968). Hysteria: The History of a Disease: By Ilza Veith. (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1965. Pp. 301. $7.95.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:101-103.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:101-103

Hysteria: The History of a Disease: By Ilza Veith. (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1965. Pp. 301. $7.95.)

Review by:
Henry Lowenfeld

This historical work that reaches back in time to the year 2000 B.C. is a very timely book. For hysteria, a disease which takes on the colour of the surrounding culture, demands a particular study in a civilization as changing as ours of the last 50 years. Hysteria has been the most frequent neurotic disorder in the last four thousand years, and yet it sometimes seems as if it had disappeared in the present stage of western mankind. But has it really disappeared, or has it only changed its looks and has become unrecognizable?

Ilza Veith, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of California, has written a highly readable and stimulating book. It is of particular value and of special interest for the psychoanalyst, because the study of hysteria, as it expressed itself during a certain cultural stage of western civilisation, led to the birth of psychoanalysis as treatment and as a science.

The author traces the illness through its different symptoms and manifestations from ancient Egypt, through Greece, Rome, the Far East, and Europe in the Middle Ages to the Victorian era and Freud's time. It is not an easy task to describe or define the common feature in the variety of pictures presented in the volume. But although occasionally it may be doubtful whether one deals with a hysterical or schizophrenic disease, in general the diagnosis of hysteria is convincing whether the author describes a devil-possessed "witch" of the sixteenth or a delicate and fragile lady of the nineteenth century.

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