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Hysteria

  • By: J. James Bono
  • In: Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief
  • Edited by: K. Bradley Penuel & Matt Statler
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Policy (general)

Mass hysteria, or “epidemic hysteria,” is a social psychiatric condition in which physiological symptoms of an illness spread through a community even though there is no physical, organic basis for those symptoms. Outbreaks of mass hysteria generally begin as a small number of members within a community begin to present with either real or perceived signs and symptoms of an illness. As other community members witness people exhibiting these symptoms, they begin to become acutely anxious and fearful until, convinced they are suffering from the same illness as the others, they start to present with the same symptoms. This often-overlooked aspect of disaster management can complicate efforts to inform or educate the public, and can lead sufferers to react to disasters in unpredictable and often ...

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