Researchers who study ‘mass hysteria’ advise referring to the phenomenon as ‘collective obsessional behaviour.’
They describe it as a kind of ‘psychogenic illness’ – a condition that begins in the mind. Physiological symptoms, however, can be very real.
The condition is also described as a ‘conversion disorder’ as a person has physiological symptoms affecting the nervous system which may appear in reaction to psychological distress.
In an article on the subject, Professor Simon Wessley, of King’s College London, notes mass hysteria has bveen used to describe such ‘a wide variety of crazes, panics and abnormal group beliefs’ that defining it is difficult.
But he suggests the phenomenon is characterised by five principles:
- that ‘it is an outbreak of abnormal illness behaviour that cannot be explained by physical disease’
- that ‘it affects people who would not normally behave in this fashion’
- that ‘it excludes symptoms deliberately provoked in groups gathered for that purpose,’ such as when someone intentionally gathers a group of people and convinces them that they are collectively experiencing a psychological or physiological symptom
- that ‘it excludes collective manifestations used to obtain a state of satisfaction unavailable singly, such as fads, crazes, and riots’
- and that ‘the link between the [individuals experiencing collective obsessional behavior] must not be coincidental,’ meaning, for instance, that they are all part of the same close-knit community
Source: Medical News Today