Panic and Culture: Hysterike Pnix in the Ancient Greek World
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 70, Number 4, October 2015
- pp. 491-515
- Additional Information
- Purchase/rental options available:
Starting perhaps in the second century BCE, and with Hippocratic precedent, ancient medical writers described a condition they called hysterike pnix or “uterine suffocation.” This paper argues that uterine suffocation was, in modern terms, a functional somatic syndrome characterized by chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Transcultural psychiatrists have identified and described a number of similar panic-type syndromes in modern populations, and a plausible theory of how they work has been advanced. These insights, applied to the ancient disease of hysterike pnix, demystify the condition and illuminate the experience of the women who suffered from it.