Lecture XIII: Hystero-Epilepsy

Medical science and psychology are overlapping disciplines and the chapter on Hystero-Epilepsy, from Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System brings to our attention one such condition that exemplifies this overlap.

Once regarded as a medical condition, hystero-epilepsy was thought to be a variant form of hysteria. According to Professor Jean-Martin Charcot, a renown 19th century French neurologist, people with hystero-epilepsy experienced a sense of forewarning before having convulsions, which were similar to epileptic fits or seizures, and engaged in hysteria, such as inappropriate melodramatic behaviour.

Professor Charcot also observed that when patients with epilepsy and patients with hystero-epilepsy experienced seizures or seizure-like symptoms, the body temperatures of the former would exceed the healthy human body temperature range while the latter rarely experienced that.

Hysteria was once classified as a standalone medical condition in the 19th century. It shifted to being considered a mental illness in the 20th century. Some of the symptoms that were associated with hysteria historically, such as anxiety, insomnia and hallucinations, are now classified under mental illness. Do consider giving Lecture XIII: Hystero-Epilepsy or Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System a read as they both provide insights into medical science and its development.

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