Freud’s theories on hysteria have led to a better understanding about the actual etiology of hysteria, and the exist of the sole genetic association of the condition.

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Freud by taking ideas and concepts from Charcot and Breuer was able to deduce the plausible scientific reasons of psychosis and was able to identify the social component that remained ignored at his time. His efforts in these areas have led to greater understanding of the etiology of hysteria, and how social influences are important in its progression.

Freud’s conceptions about the human psychology is made up of very few components, which he claims are so powerful as to dictate the total human mind and motivating it accordingly. His psychology has been structurally organized to form two basic domains, the conscious and the unconscious. Within these two components are present the id, the ego and superego, the conscious and the preconscious.


Freud’s work in psychology has been cited, revisited, debated, and argued for years now. Yet his contribution to the field has been of immense value for the future psychologists. Freud is therefore, undoubtedly considered one of the pioneers of his time in psychology, being influenced by his teacher Charcot and his friend Breuer.

Many of his theories are fragments of the theories proposed by these two contemporaries; however, Freud was able to introduce his own concepts in them to create his own conclusions.

In case of Freud, the biggest argument about his theories was the preponderance of sexual origins in all basic pathologies of the psyche. While this concept for some time was avidly followed, there are many who are against this view.

Freud however, instituted some new areas of psychoanalysis, and emphasized the role of external factors, environments and experiences in the propagation of hysteria among patients.

He was able to convince the necessary role of various events and stimuli to invoke a change in the psyche of the patient, which led to the etiology of hysteria. In this regard, he was able to disapprove of the entire genetic predisposition theory of hysteria of his teacher, Charcot, and emphasized on the more plausible external and memory related changes in psyche associated with experiences.

He put forward the idea that these events were largely repressed by the conscious mind in the hysterical patients, and therefore, the patients are unable to analyze the cause of their own condition. Freud therefore can be considered one of the first psychologists to acknowledge the role of external and societal factors in the etiology of hysteria, a concept that was foreign in those times.

Freud’s theory of hysteria, as mentioned above, is largely influenced by two great contributors of his time, his neurologist teacher, Charcot, and his friend and colleague, Breuer. Both these people have influenced the manner of Freud’s theories.

Freud in his roundabout way accepted the affect of hereditary and physiological predisposition of hysteria, as well as emphasized the role of memory and using the chain of events and links that led to the causation of the hysteria. While not completely submitting to these ideas and theories, Freud was able to extract the fundamentals of these theories, adding and emphasizing his own theories of sexual experiences in the person’s psyche to be the cause of the condition.

In Charcot’s version for example, Freud was against the opinion that genetics and females sex were the only reasons for hysteria, but proposed that hysteria is a feature that can also be found among men, although lesser of the times. He claimed this to be due to the gender specific roles and perceptions of the sexuality in the genders and not the actual physical attributes of the male or female physique.

While Charcot’s views were adamant on the genetic determinant as the sole causative agent, Freud’s theories claimed these were accessory tools, but not essential ones. He however claimed that sexual experiences in both men and women, preferentially traumatic ones in childhood are the main cause of hysteria and obsession disorder development.

Here again is his emphasis of the role of sexuality and sexual experiences in the psychology of the individual, for which he was both praised and condemned for. However, Freud unlike his contemporaries was able to separate the physiological determinant factor that contributed to hysteria as suggested by other theorists of his time.

Similarly, Freud was although accepting of his friend Breuer’s concepts of previous chain of events leading to hysteria, he claimed the associations to be more deeper, to be more complex and interwoven and to be more recessive and dormant in the psychology of the nature. He was of the opinion that simple relaying of the patient of the main cause of his psychosis by his own account in proper scientific investigation was insignificant.

This was because for any cause of hysteria, it should show relevance or significance of the incidence, as well as the degree of trauma that is so often the clear feature of hysteria seen in many patients. This he thought was not in the ability of the patient to decide whether an event was significant or not.

His famous analogy for comparing was the digging of an ancient site by an explorer, who by extricating the different layers leads to the final truth and revelation about the ruins he sets to explore. He therefore, while agreed in the principle of the theory of Breuer, insisted on the logical explanation of the psychosis and hysterical behavior of the person.

Freud in the case of hysteria put forward the theory that was a combination of sorts of both the theorists mentioned above. He extricated the role of neurosis and memory aggravation from Charcot, and believed that various events and memories lead to the complex pattern of responses of the patient to various situations, thus leading to psychosis, which may be independent on the sex or the physique of the patient.

He also acknowledged to some extent the role of genetics ad family history in the causation of hysteria.

Similarly, from Breuer, he was able to deduce that simple explanation from the patient about his cause of psychosis must be of significant relevance and of traumatic origin to be called the true cause of hysteria in him or her.

These ideas are therefore of significant effect in the current psychology. Previously, as hysteria was considered to be predominantly female originated, males were usually not diagnosed with the condition. Freud argued it to be not the case, stating it to be a gender and a societal issue, rather than the issue of physical attributes of males in females.

This proposal led to opening of a new door in psychology, where reliance on the sex of the patient was overtaken by the gender and the social influences and experiences of the patient.