This historical review presents the advances made mostly during the last 200 years on the description, concepts, theories, and (more specifically) cure of patients suffering from hysteria, a still obscure entity. The denomination of the syndrome has changed over time, from hysteria (reinvestigated by Paul Briquet and Jean-Martin Charcot) to pithiatism (Joseph Babinski), then to conversion neurosis (Sigmund Freud), and today functional neurological disorders according to the 2013 American Neurological Association DSM-5 classification. The treatment was renewed in the second half of the 19th century in Paris by Paul Briquet and then by Jean-Martin Charcot. Hysterical women, who represented the great majority of cases, were cured by physical therapy (notably physio-, hydro-, and electrotherapy, and in some cases ovary compression) and 'moral' therapies (general, causal therapy, rest, isolation, hypnosis, and suggestion).
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and persuasion were established respectively by Pierre Janet, Sigmund Freud, and Joseph Babinski. During World War I, military forces faced a large number of posttrauma neurosis cases among soldiers (named the 'Babinski-Froment war neurosis' and Myers 'shell shock', in the French and English literature, respectively). This led to the use of more brutal therapies in military hospitals, combining electrical shock and persuasion, particularly in France with Clovis Vincent and Gustave Roussy, but also in Great Britain and Germany. After World War I, this method was abandoned and there was a marked decrease in interest in hysteria for a long period of time. Today, the current treatment comprises (if possible intensive) physiotherapy, together with psychotherapy, and in some cases psychoanalysis. antidepressants and anxiolytics may be required, and more recently cognitive and behavioral therapy. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is a new technique under investigation which may be promising in patients presenting with motor conversion syndrome (motor deficit or movement disorder). Functional neurological disorders remain a difficult problem to manage with frequent failures and chronic handicapping evolution. This emphasizes the need for therapeutic innovations in the future.
Front Neurol Neurosci. 2014;35:181-97. doi: 10.1159/000360242. Epub 2014 Jun 26.
Broussolle E(1), Gobert F, Danaila T, Thobois S, Walusinski O, Bogousslavsky J. Author information: (1)Centre de Neurosciences Cognitives, Service de Neurologie C, Hôpital Neurologique Pierre Wertheimer, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, Lyon, France.