Charcot and les névroses traumatiques: Historical and scientific reflections

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Between 1878 and 1893, Jean-Martin Charcot published over twenty detailed case histories dealing with what he termed 'traumatic hysteria' and what today would be labelled the psychoneurology of trauma. Charcot's cases record a highly diverse clinique tableau of symptoms. Etiologically, Charcot posited a dual model of a hereditary diathyse, or constitutional predilection to nervous degeneration, and an environmental agent provocateur. Increasingly during the l880s, he emphasized the role of 'psychical shock'. These writings of Charcot also exhibit many of the same, superb clinical qualities that distinguish his work on other medical topics. Charcot isolated several hystero-traumatic formations and provided outstanding clinical depictions of subgenres of the disorder, most notably brachial monoplegias. His clinical demonstrations of the differential diagnosis of organic and functional post-traumatic pathologies represent Charcot the virtuoso neurologist at his finest. Taken together, these writings offer a penetrating exploration of the complex and elaborate functional sequelae of minor bodily injury and the phenomenon of traumatic psychogenic somatic symptom-formation. The revival today of medical interest in psycho-traumatic pathology, particularly in the traumatic origins of dissociative states and post-traumatic stress disorders, provide an important context for the renewed appreciation of Charcot's work in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-505
Number of pages8
JournalRevue Neurologique
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Charcot
  • hysteria
  • neurosis and trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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