Mass hysteria represents a societal occurrence marked by groups experiencing symptoms that mimic those of a physical illness. It is alternatively known as epidemic hysteria, mass psychogenic illness, and mass sociogenic illness. Despite many symptoms having a psychological origin without an identified source, they are commonly shared by two or more individuals who harbor similar beliefs about the potential cause of the illness.
Although rooted in mental factors, mass hysteria often manifests in genuine physical symptoms and significant psychological distress. Various factors, including social pressure, stress, and groupthink, contribute to this inclination for both psychological and physiological manifestations in cases of mass hysteria. in this blog, you will get everything regarding this mental condition, including the several forms of mass hysteria, its primary symptoms, and potential causes, which are provided below.
Understanding Mass Hysteria
A phenomenon referred to as mass hysteria, also recognized as epidemic hysteria, mass psychogenic disorder, or mass sociogenic sickness, occurs when individuals within a tightly-knit group exhibit hysterical behaviors. The term ‘hysteria’ denotes an overwhelming and often uncontrollable emotional state. The root causes of mass hysteria are frequently unfounded, leaning more towards a mental ailment rather than a physical one.
Those undergoing mass hysteria typically display features of collective delusion driven by an unwavering belief in an unusual notion. Essentially, mass hysteria manifests as hysterical symptoms observed in a collective setting. The anxiety instilled in a significant population, primarily through media influence, leading to the conviction that societal norms are under threat, is termed moral panic.
Types Of Mass Hysteria
- Mass anxiety hysteria: Individuals who are part of the same close-knit, sometimes secluded group or community tend to exhibit this kind. It is characterized by abrupt tension and other anxiety-related symptoms that “spread” and go away quite rapidly.
- Mass motor hysteria: This kind is more likely to manifest in those who have been under constant stress and strain. It features erratic motor (movement) symptoms that vary progressively from person to person and frequently persist for weeks at a time.
Psychological anguish is the primary cause of hysteria and can arise for several causes. The primary theory is that it is caused by an environmental occurrence that impacts a group of individuals, leading to the common symptoms of hysteria.
These people might sometimes become so emotionally and socially numb or blind from the stress of a pandemic or other disaster that they are unable to handle it. Medical professionals think that patients experience actual pain even though it is a mental disorder rather than a physical illness.
Causes Of Mass Hysteria
Some potential causes include:
- Groupthink: Groupthink, a psychological phenomenon, emerges when a group swiftly adopts an opinion aligning with the collective consensus without critically evaluating information. Though commonly associated with business, politics, and policymaking, groupthink is relevant to the psychology of collective phobias and mass hysteria. Mass hysteria can be viewed as an extreme manifestation of groupthink. Groupthink tends to arise frequently in the presence of a respected or persuasive leader, encouraging members to align with their viewpoint.
- Stress: Experiencing intense stress or trauma may also contribute to the onset of mass hysteria. In times of extreme stress, individuals might mistakenly attribute feelings associated with stress to physical or environmental causes. Collective trauma can lead people to manifest psychogenic symptoms.
- Social Pressure: Social pressure may influence the manifestation of symptoms linked to mass hysteria. When numerous individuals display similar symptoms, others may consciously or unconsciously feel pressured to exhibit the same. The fear of others being unwell can prompt individuals to overly focus on physical sensations, which may then be ascribed to a collective illness.
Treatment for Mass Hysteria
There is no recognized therapy for widespread psychogenic disease.
Therapy for conversion disorder, together with comfort and sympathetic recognition of symptoms, can often lead to improvement. In general, experts advise using a similar tack when dealing with cases of widespread hysteria.
In summary, physical symptoms may usually be relieved by determining the underlying cause of your stress and taking appropriate action to address it. A safe environment to develop and put new coping mechanisms for persistent stress in your life into practice is provided by therapy.
One more crucial step on the road to recovery? keeping your distance from the epicenter. Finding a sense of calm that encourages a quicker recovery can be facilitated by taking a break from talking about or sharing the same symptoms with other people.
Top Three Cases of Mass Hysteria in India
- The nation’s capital was gripped by fear in 2001, courtesy of the infamous ‘Monkey Man’ or Kala Bandar. Reports surfaced of a creature, half-monkey, half-man, terrorizing the streets of New Delhi. Descriptions varied, with some claiming the creature had mechanical claws, while others insisted it wore a helmet. Despite no fatalities in the reported ‘attacks,’ a tragic incident occurred when a pregnant woman lost her life. Awoken by the cries of her neighbors while sleeping on her East Delhi terrace, she, fearing the ‘Monkey Man,’ fled and tragically fell down the steps.
- In 2006, locals in Mumbai were astonished when the typically polluted Mahim Creek’s water suddenly turned sweet. Hundreds flocked to Mahim beach to taste the water, and blame for this ‘miracle’ fell on Haji Maqdoom Baba, according to a Times of India report. Authorities became concerned about the surge of people, fearing the consumption of the contaminated stream water could lead to illness.
- During the summer of 2002, the residents of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, were haunted by the ‘Muhnochwa,’ a face-ripping entity. Described as a flying object emitting shockwaves and beams of red or green light, victims reportedly sustained injuries resembling nail marks. The Times of India reported conflicting accounts, with some suggesting it was a hawk or a doll-like figure, while others believed it to be a remote-controlled device used as a prank by opportunistic individuals.
In conclusion, mass hysteria represents a complex interplay of psychological and social factors, giving rise to shared symptoms within closely-knit groups. The understanding of this phenomenon involves recognizing the influence of stress, social pressure, and groupthink. While treatment for mass hysteria lacks a standardized approach, addressing underlying stressors and cultivating coping mechanisms can alleviate symptoms.
The blog explores notable cases in India, such as the ‘Monkey Man,’ the ‘Sweet Water’ episode in Mahim Creek, and the ‘Muhnochwa,’ shedding light on the intriguing and sometimes tragic manifestations of mass hysteria. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining a calm environment and seeking appropriate support for recovery.