Self-Defined

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Avoid—sexist

hysterical

Speech

adjective

We would recommend adding a content warning when speaking about this term. Pleaseread the guidance on how and when to warn people before using this term in any context.

feeling or showing uncontrollable outburst of emotion; casually: very funny

Issues

Hysteria originates from the Greek word hysterikos or "of the womb." The Greeks believed that hysteria was something that moved through a woman's body and caused ailments.

Hysteria was once an official medical condition that was primarily diagnosed in women. (It has since been disbanded into other disorders, such as conversion and disassociative disorders.) So, as medical professionals believed men did not have uteruses*, medical professionals would not diagnose men with hysteria (even though they were experiencing the same symptoms of conversion disorder).

*Editor's Note: This concept that men cannot have uteruses is reflective of the medical context, not the belief of the editor.

Impact

Gender-codified and sexist language perpetuates harmful stereotypes that reinforce patriarchical ideas. In the case of hysteria, it perpetuates the false stereotype of women as being unreasonable, irrational, and not in control of their emotions. Harmful stereotypes can cause women to not be believed, to have their experiences invalidated, and be tone-policed.

Defining gender by sexual organs can also perpetuate transphobic and anti-trans definitions, where gender is falsely defined by sexual organs.

Medical conditions believed to be defined by sex and gender are reductive and can lead to misdiagnosis.

Alt Words

If intending funny connotation, try: funny; hilarious; comedic.

If intending panic connotation, try: panicked, petrified, startled.

Further Reading

You may want to add a content warning before discussing or showing imagery involving this topic, as it is a topic that can elicit unnecessary harm through inducing negative feelings, anxiety, or trauma.

Content warnings usually take the form of "Content warning: hysterical" or "CW: hysterical. We recommend the former when possible.

Content warnings should be given at the earliest possible opportunity. Examples of where you can do this are:

  • Articles under the byline, before content
  • Videos (with proper audio descriptions)
  • Photographs (with proper alt text)
  • Podcasts (before topic, in transcript)
  • Books (introductory page, summary)
  • Conference talks/webinars
  • Start of social media posts including this term
  • Social media posts with a link to content including this term

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