The classification of hysteria and related disorders: Historical and phenomenological considerations

Carol S. North

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This article examines the history of the conceptualization of dissociative, conversion, and somatoform syndromes in relation to one another, chronicles efforts to classify these and other phenomenologically-related psychopathology in the American diagnostic system for mental disorders, and traces the subsequent divergence in opinions of dissenting sectors on classification of these disorders. This article then considers the extensive phenomenological overlap across these disorders in empirical research, and from this foundation presents a new model for the conceptualization of these disorders. The classification of disorders formerly known as hysteria and phenomenologically-related syndromes has long been contentious and unsettled. Examination of the long history of the conceptual difficulties, which remain inherent in existing classification schemes for these disorders, can help to address the continuing controversy. This review clarifies the need for a major conceptual revision of the current classification of these disorders. A new phenomenologically-based classification scheme for these disorders is proposed that is more compatible with the agnostic and atheoretical approach to diagnosis of mental disorders used by the current classification system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-517
Number of pages22
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Briquet's syndrome
  • Conversion
  • Diagnostic classification
  • Diagnostic comorbidity
  • Dissociation
  • Hysteria
  • Mental disorders
  • Nosology
  • Somatization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • Psychology(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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