Mass Hysteria: Definition, Characteristics And Causes

Hysteria is best described as the reverse placebo effect. Hippocrates in the 5th century BC was the first to use the term hysteria. He also believed that the cause of this disease lies in the movement of the uterus. Hysteria has been around for a long time but what exactly is hysteria, what causes it, and why does it occur more in women compared to men?

To provide a clearer definition of mass hysteria, to define it as an occurrence of potential medical concern, and to distinguish it from any unduly negative connotations, scholars have suggested that the phenomenon be referred to as collective obsessional behavior. Specialists who have taken an interest in this phenomenon claim that this is a form of psychological disorder that occurs in the mind rather than in the body. Sometimes, however, physiological signs are not illusory, but very true. Mass hysteria is also characterized as a conversion disorder in which, in the absence of a physical cause of disease, a person has physiological symptoms that affect the nervous system and may occur in response to psychological distress. Since mass hysteria, or collective obsessional activity, can take so many different forms, providing a clear description for it or characterizing it with confidence is very difficult. Mass hysteria has been used to characterize such a wide variety of crazes, panics, and irrational group beliefs that it is especially tricky to identify. Nonetheless, mass hysteria is an outbreak of diseases and abnormal behavior that can not be explained by a physical disease. It affects people and they would not usually behave like this. Mass hysteria excludes symptoms that are deliberately caused in groups that have been organized for that reason, such as when someone purposefully gathers a group of people and convinces them that they have a collective mental or physiological symptom. Mass hysteria is the connection between people who experience collective obsessive activity. A classic example is a pacifist whose arm is freezing when attempting to fire a gun in combat or the witness of an atrocity experiencing temporary blindness, yet the eye structure is in perfect working order. Conversion disorder spreads in groups from time to time. Talk of mass hysteria as the reverse placebo effect. When people can think less of themselves, they can get sick. Part of the confusion surrounding the term is that unrelated behaviors are often described. Panic in culture. Sell-offs from the market share. The Red Scare. Stampedes of the rock concert. Everyone was misrepresented as group hysteria.

Hysteria is often triggered by an environmental incident, such as water supply contamination, which causes people to worry about getting sick, even though they are otherwise perfectly healthy. In other cases, people who witness people falling ill around them unwittingly trick their bodies into the manifestation of the same symptoms. And in other situations, personal and psychological stresses often are too much for a community to cope with, resulting in a generalized depression in the form of neurological issues such as blindness and numbness. These three cases are manifestations of psychosomatic disorders, which means the mind makes the body ill, but experts say that they are no less true and traumatic than any other physiologically based condition.

Females are not emotionally deficient or inferior gender. Mass hysteria is not a mental disorder, it is a common response to stress that has a stigma attached to it, sadly. This is true of the name in general. Hysteria was a catch-all word during the nineteenth century to describe everything from panic attacks to mood and bipolar conditions. Once the male-dominated medical profession used the concept of insanity to reinforce the notion of women being emotionally unstable. The key question is not whether, but why are women more vulnerable to mass hysteria? Nature and nurture fall into two large categories. Supporters of the nature theory point out that women live oppressive, submissive lives in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East where outbreaks are popular. They are often are picked whom they can get married to and may need permission from their husband just to leave home. Nevertheless, Canadian psychologist Francois Sirois suggests that the answer lies not in the treatment of women by government, but rather in their physiology. He studied 45 school outbreaks from around the world and found that the most frequently afflicted women approached puberty. Although social conditions are fairly uniform for both genders, Sirois notes that outbreaks in Western schools strike women at about the same level as those in other parts of the world. Some psychogenic disorders, including individual cases of conversion disorder, are more prevalent in females. The difference between gender and mass hysteria can be explained by social and cultural influences. While adolescent girls are affected more frequently in schools, outbreaks in the workplace rarely involve women close to puberty. In the types of mind-numbing jobs that produce dissatisfaction, women are over-represented. Sociologist Alan Kerckhoff notes that females are better than males in dull, stressful, repetitive tasks, according to industrial tradition. Therefore, to fill these jobs, women are often hired. Western women also cope with stress differently than men. British psychologist Simon Wessely suggests women are more likely to share their problems with each other, which can cause spreads. It is well known that women are more likely than men to seek medical care. In most non-Western countries, common female character characteristics are apparent. Working women may also feel tension arising from juggling the demands of their conventional domestic duties.

'Hysteria is exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people' (Oxford dictionary). Scientists used to believe that hysteria was caused by the movement of fluids in the uterus. Today, scientists know what causes hysteria and why are affects women more than men. 

16 December 2021
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