Hysteria is a neurosis usually ascribed to women. According to Freud, it is caused by the repression of childhood sexual desires, which are then expressed in physical symptoms. The hysteric's denial of her own (sexual) desires is hence also a reflection of clichéd female gender roles. As an adult, she often places the desires of her lover above her own. This is in keeping with her understanding of love.
The hysteric usually comes to the analyst with the expectation that she will be told what to do. However, in order for her to develop the capacity for intimate relationships, she must become aware of her own desires and learn to be less concerned with what others want. The analyst tries to make it clear to the patient that only she can know what she should do.
Dora is struggling to understand both the place of female sexuality in her family and the desires of her father, who at one point says: "I get nothing out of my own wife." She begins to identify with Frau K., with whom her father is having an affair. When Frau K.'s husband falls in love with Dora, she is able to relinquish her father as a love object and to develop her own sexual identity - until Herr K. professes his love to Dora using the same words her father once used: "I get nothing out of my own wife." As a consequence, Dora again loses her role model, and with it the chance to discover what it means to be a woman. Shocked, she refuses to meet with Herr K. anymore. Some time later she threatens to commit suicide, and the symptoms of her illness worsen - she suffers fainting spells and coughing fits that go on for weeks.