Mass hysteria revisited


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Abstract

Purpose of reviewInstances of mass psychogenic response have occurred throughout history, and across population groups; however, the present-day threat of terrorism and biological warfare is expected to enhance societal vulnerability to epidemics of such events. This paper provides a brief review of the current state of knowledge regarding the conceptualization, diagnosis, and management of mass psychogenic response.Recent findingsVarious terms are nowadays used to denote mass hysteria, such as ‘mass psychogenic illness’ and ‘mass sociogenic illness’. Recent studies investigating personality types predisposed to mass hysteric reactions are inconclusive with a range of results found. Cognitive models of this condition have been effective in promoting empowerment and adaptation among vulnerable individuals. The actions of governments, medical communities, and the media are pivotal in the management of mass hysteria.SummaryThe diagnosis of mass hysteria remains contentious, and the mechanisms underlying its perpetuation are similarly ambiguous. The prevalence of ‘threat’ within the modern sociocultural climate is likely to increase the incidence of the condition, and this could result in serious implications for health services. A holistic approach entailing the collaboration of various public sectors performing a range of preventive activities will be required to contain future mass psychogenic reactions.

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