Hysteria was an ancient term used to describe uncontrollable emotions, resulting in the admission of many women to asylums for symptoms such as a “tendency to cause trouble”. The source of the alleged insanity was said to come from the uterus, thus the treatment in some cases was a hysterectomy. While no longer a recognised medical condition, it has a legacy in modern medicine.
As is often the case, I was in a multi-disciplinary meeting of heart doctors as the only woman. It’s a situation that I have become uncomfortably comfortable with. The meeting began and our first patient was a woman in her 40s. She had been seen by doctors in the community and at the local emergency department with pain in her arm and shortness of breath. Each time, the diagnosis was anxiety.