The term referring to illnesses known as the vapours (or vapors) is an archaic form for certain mental or physical states, such as hysteria, mania, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, fainting, withdrawal syndrome, mood swings or PMS, ascribed primarily to women and thought to be caused by internal emanations. This is related to the similar term female hysteria. Vapours were considered to be the female equivalent to melancholy found in men.
The word vapours was used to describe a depressed or hysterical nervous condition. Today, the phrase 'a case of the vapors' is most often used sarcastically or for comic effect.
In the Victorian era, a variety of conditions which affected women were referred to as vapours. Women's tight corsets squeezed their internal organs, this was believed to be cause of the vapours. The expression that someone "has a case of the vapors" was sometimes used to describe a person in a state of emotional agitation.
- "The Anatomy of Melancholy, what it is, with all the kinds, causes, symptoms, prognostics, and several cures of it." In three partitions. With their several sections, members, and subsections, philosophically, medically, historically opened and cut up. By Democritus Junior (Robert Burton). With a satirical preface, conducing to the following discourse. London; William Tegg and Co., Queen Street, Cheapside. 1854.
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