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Hysterical strength refers to a display of extreme physical strength by humans, beyond what is believed to be normal, usually occurring when people are in, or perceive themselves to be in life-or-death situations. It was also reported to be present during situations of altered states of consciousness, such as trance and alleged possession. Its description is mostly based on anecdotal evidence.
The name refers to hysteria, a nosological category that included bouts of superhuman strength as one of the possible symptoms, but in Europe this had also been an attribution in previous cases of alleged demonic possession. Charcot imputed to the phase of hysterical attacks called clownism the presence of strength and agility not consistent with the age and sex of the person, which before in the Catholic ritual of exorcism was attributed to demonic force. Thus, the cause of the phenomenon began at that time to be addressed by the investigation of insanity. During that period in the 19th century, the term hysterical strength could also be found in the intersection of such fields, scientific and religious, for instance appearing in a statement by a physician for the Society for Psychical Research.
Unexpected strength is claimed to occur during excited delirium.
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