Mass Hysteria And Sociogenic Illness

Mass hysteria and sociogenic illness have been an important part of history. Starting from the 16th century in Salem, Massachusetts with the Salem Witch Trials to something more modern such as the LeRoy Girls of New York in 2012. Over the years, mass sociogenic illness and hysteria have been perceived as acting or childs’ play. That is actually not the case as mass hysteria is a severe psychological epidemic that has drastic impacts on everything in its way. Mass sociogenic illness is an epidemic of mass hysteria that has changed and evolved over time in the centuries of history. According to the article From Science In Context written by the Canadian Medical Association Journal “Rapid spread of illness signs and symptoms affecting members of a cohesive group, originating from a nervous system disturbance involving excitation, loss or alteration of function, whereby physical complaints that are exhibited unconsciously have no corresponding organic aetiology”. 

Mass hysteria is an expensive epidemic to cure due to how many people have to be involved in helping and how other citizens in the community are impacted such as being out of work. “It is synonymously termed mass psychogenic disorder or epidemic hysteria and distinguished from collective delusions by the presence of illness symptoms”. The severity of the symptoms without an explanation impacts everyone by not having the ability to find a cause and treatment. Sociocultural stressors and threats heavily contribute to the cause of the unknown mass hysteria. “It occurs in the context of a credible threat that provokes great anxiety, such as a noxious odour in a school amid of fears of chemical warfare and bioterrorism.”. Something that has the ability to severely impact a group of people to the point is when “No one dies from the symptoms and there is usually another group in the same environment that is well, with those who report being ill having typically been under unusual physical and or mental stress.”

Mass sociogenic illness has a similar relationship since the 16th century to modern times. In almost all cases of mass hysteria and sociogenic illness “Most complaints were consisted of vague constitutional symptoms and were transient”. In most cases the afflicted experience symptoms that they can’t describe and explain in their own words. Across the world “As many cultures have done, the colonists tended to attribute anything they could not readily explain to supernatural phenomena, especially to beneficent or malevolent forces”. People handle certain things differently like stress and they have control on how they deal with these things. According to researchers, “Research has shown that these beliefs generally help people feel some measure of control over phenomena that affect them”. Everything affects everyone differently and people can interpret certain things like stress differently as well. In the perspective of the legal officials in the Salem Witch Trials, “The wisdom held that only victims could see the witches in spirit form committing their evil deeds, so by definition, spectral evidence could be given only by single witnesses, regardless of whether or not others were around at the time of the crime'.

Only the people who handle or experience things the same way as others will understand what is going on, even though no one else does but themselves. In conclusion mass sociogenic illness and hysteria are social epidemics that have existed for hundreds of years. They have changed the way we evaluate things and have taught us very important life lessons. Mass sociogenic illness has been a part of history since the 16th century and has influenced many sociocultural changes over the years

Works Cited

  • 'Health: A case of mass hysteria: Coca-Cola dumped half a million bottles of soft drink in Belgium last month after a health scare. But it seems the problem was all in the mind.' Guardian [London, England], 6 July 1999, p. 16. General OneFile, Accessed 24 Sept. 2018.
  • 'Salem Witch Trials.' Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War, Gale, 2009. Student Resources In Context, Accessed 2 Oct. 2018.
  • Weir, Erica. 'Mass sociogenic illness.' CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 4 Jan. 2005, p. 36. Science in Context, Accessed 2 Oct. 2018.     
16 December 2021
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