Hysteria vs Shellshock Treatment

Treatment for shellshock in men usually involved pain and punishment. One popular method was electric shock therapy where an electric current would be placed on the problem area such as along the spine if the individual suffering from shellshock had difficulty walking. Men would also be shamed as a form of treatment. Another way of treating shellshock was forcing people to do things they disliked and refusing to allow them to do things they liked. This lead to individuals who did not want to be alone being isolated or those that disliked noise being placed near loud noises such as main roads.

These treatment of shellshock, what was considered the male version of hysteria, were horrible. What is interesting is that on the opposite side, hysteria for women was treated with pleasure. Hysteria was believed to be caused by the uterus and was first named in the 5th century BC by Hippocrates. Symptoms included not only fainting and outbursts but also sexual thoughts. A “cure” that many medical experts endorsed was to massage the woman’s pelvic area. This “cure” also lead to the invention of the vibrator as a way for women to treat hysteria at home without the aid of a doctor.

It is interesting that while shellshock was treated with pain, hysteria was treated with pleasure. It brings the question of how treatments and history would differ if female hysteria had been treated like how shellshock was during WWI or how shellshock victims would have reacted if their male hysteria was treated as female hysteria was.

Information on shellshock treatment from: http://spartacus-educational.com/FWWmental.htm

Information on female hysteria treatment from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/female-hysteria_n_4298060.html

2 thoughts on “Hysteria vs Shellshock Treatment

  1. The difference between the two treatments really shocks me but at the same time makes sense. I remember my anthro professor last semester briefly talking about the medical divide between men and women at the time period. It makes me want to further investigate how shell shock was treated during the next world war, and when women were finally treated for things like ptsd as something that could/was experienced by anyone, regardless of gender.

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