Hysteria and the Wandering Womb

What is the oldest medical diagnosis in history? It’s hysteria, the condition attributed to women’s wombs wandering around their bodies causing trouble. Come explore the 4000-year history of this bizarre medical tradition.

NOTE: This episode has been updated to remove parts no longer supported by scholarly opinion.

Don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and review. Support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/btnewberg. Research, writing, editing, and production by B. T. Newberg. Logo Design by Rachel Westhoff. Animation by Maxeem Konrardy. Additional credits, references, and more at www.historyofsexpod.com.


Aretaeus. (1972/1856). The Extant Works of Aretaeus, the Cappadocian. Adams, F. LL.D., Ed. Boston: Milford House. Downloaded Nov. 30, 2016, from: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0254%3Atext%3DSA%3Abook%3D2%3Achapter%3D11

Cordon, L. (2012). Freud’s World: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Times. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.

Direkvand-Moghadam, Ashraf, Khaikavani, S., and Sayehmiri, Kourosh. “The Worldwide Prevalence of Premenstrual Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Study.” Iranian Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Infertility. Vol. 16, No. 65: pp. 8-17, 2013, September.

Hustvedt, A. (2011). Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris. New York. W. W. Norton & Co.

Kahun Medical Papyrus. (2002). Quirke, S., Trans. University College London. Downloaded Nov. 30, 2016, from: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/med/birthpapyrus.html

Liebermann, Hallie. (2017). Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy. New York: Pegasus.

Maines, R. (1999). The Technology of Orgasm. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. (no longer supported by scholarly opinion; the episode has been updated with related content removed)

Tasca, Cecilia, Rapetti, Mariangela, Carto, Mauro Giovanni, and Fada, Bianca. “Women and Hysteria in the History of Mental Health.” Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health. Vol. 8: pp, 110-119, 2012.

Van Driel, M. (2012). With the Hand: A Cultural History of Masturbation. Vincent, P., Trans. London: Reaktion Books.

Audio Credits

Podcast theme music mixed from “Gregorian Chant”, “Mystery Sax”, and “There It Is” by Kevin MacLeod. Short Shorts theme music mixed from “Gregorian Chant” by Kevin MacLeod and “Short Shorts” by the Royal Teens.

Additional music from “Minstrel Guild“, “Ibn Al-Noor“, and “Brandenburg Concerto” by Kevin MacLeod, “Ancient Roman Music – Synaulia I” by Aemilius Paulus, “Trumpet Fanfare Medieval” by Hanson Music Studios, “Cartoon Factory Whistle” by Nick Judy.

Image Credits

Womb designed by Rachel Westhoff.

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