Researchers at the University of Calgari in Italy in an article entitled “Women and Hysteria in the History of Mental Health,” tell us the back story: The Argonaut Melampus, a physician, is considered its founder: he placated the revolt of Argo’s virgins who refused to honor the phallus and fled to the mountains, their behavior being taken for madness.Melampus cured these women with hellebore and then urged them to join carnally with young and strong men. Melampus spoke of the women’s madness as derived from their uterus being poisoned by venomous humors, due to a lack of orgasms and “uterine melancholy” [2–4].If you have been lucky to date, marry or related to a Greek woman, you might have heard the stereotypes—“she’s hysterical,” “she makes a big deal out of nothing,” “She’s a nut job,” “she’s a drama queen.” Are these stereotypes true? And if there is some truth to some of these observations about Greek girl behavior, where do they come from?From anecdotal accounts, it would seem that out of every three Greek women, one can be characterized as “intense.” An American friend who had a long-standing relationship with a Greek-American woman characterized Greek girls as “complicated”, “full of issues,” and “problematic.” He eventually killed the relationship because he just could not handle the extreme emotionality of his partner.My hunch is that there are greater societal and cultural forces at play in women’s neuroses.I believe at the core of Greek women’s “hysteria” is their lack of self-esteem and their harrowing insecurities.Then, he resumes the idea of a restless and migratory uterus and identifies the cause of the indisposition as poisonous stagnant humors which, due to an inadequate sexual life, have never been expelled.
Indeed he also believes that the cause of this disease lies in the movement of the uterus (“hysteron”) [2–4].
Women suffering from hysteria could be released from the anxiety that characterizes this condition by participating in the Maenad experience.
Trance states guided and cured by the Satyr, the priest of Dionysus, contributed to solving the conflict related to sexuality, typical of hysteria disease .
For this reason, he suggests that even widows and unmarried women should get married and live a satisfactory sexual life within the bounds of marriage [2–4].
However, when the disease is recognized, affected women are advised not only to partake in sexual activity, but also to cure themselves with acrid or fragrant fumigation of the face and genitals, to push the uterus back to its natural place inside the body [2–4].