From Hippocrates till the early twentieth century symptoms like inexplicable paralysis, rage and nervous breakdowns were explained to be caused by a disease from the womb, called 'hysteria' (hystera is the Greek word for womb).

Around 1880 French neurologist Martin Charcot researched the differences between the symptoms of hysteria, epilepsy and psychic disorders. He put that there had to be a physical cause of hysteria, and found out that this physical cause was not to be found in the womb, yet in the central nervous system. Even though he gave many public lectures with hypnosis-experiments on women, Charcot denied that hysteria would be a gender-sensitive disorder. His experiments were of great influence on the work of Sigmund Freud, a frequent visitor of Charcot's lectures in Paris.