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Charcot eventually came to the conclusion that many of his patients were suffering from a form of hysteria which had been induced by their emotional response to a traumatic accident in their past – such as a fall from a scaffold or a railway crash.
Soon after this she asked for a drink and then woke from her hypnosis with a glass at her lips.
In his published account of the case, written some twelve years later, Breuer treated the story which Anna O.
Charcot specialised in treating patients who were suffering from a variety of unexplained physical symptoms including paralysis, contractures (muscles which contract and cannot be relaxed) and seizures.
Some of these patients sporadically and compulsively adopted a bizarre posture (christened arc-de-cercle) in which they arched their body backwards until they were supported only by their head and their heels.
The following essay consists of four sections from my volume in the Weidenfeld 'Great Philosophers' series: Freud (2003).
For a more detailed discussion of the medical diagnosis of hysteria and further comment on Charcot, Sigmund Freud was born in 1856, in the small Austro-Hungarian town of Freiberg.
in at least one respect; they came to Freud not because they were experiencing emotional distress but because they were suffering from physical symptoms.
Freud’s first patient, for example, Frau Emmy von N., suffered speech difficulties, which Freud described as ‘spastic interruptions amounting to a stammer’.
As Freud embarked on a career in medicine, which eventually led him to study in the newly emerging field of neurology, these expectations seem to have become increasingly burdensome.
For, although outwardly successful, he appears to have begun to despair of ever being granted the kind of world-redeeming revelation which he felt inwardly compelled to seek.