MASS PSYCHOGENIC ILLNESS (MPI)
Commoner than we realize is the disease called mass psychogenic illness. This disease happens all around the world and in almost every social setting. Interestingly, you might be suffering from it as we speak.
WHAT IS MASS PSYCHOGENIC ILLNESS?
Mass psychogenic illness (MPI) is when class or group of people are expressing symptoms of illness at the same time even though, there is no physical or environmental exposure to have caused that. That is, no reason for them to be sick. This people believe they have been exposed to something dangerous like virus, bacteria or toxins.
It is also called mass hysteria or mass sociogenic illness.
WHAT ARE THE FEATURES OF MPI?
Qualities of MPI outbreaks often include:
- symptoms that have no plausible organic basis;
- symptoms that are transient and benign;
- symptoms with rapid onset and recovery;
- occurrence in a segregated group;
- the presence of extraordinary anxiety;
- symptoms that are spread via sight, sound or oral communication;
- a spread that moves down the age scale, beginning with older or higher-status people;
- a preponderance of female participants.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OFTEN PRESENTED AS MPI?
If many people in the group start to feel sick at about the same time, we might think they have mass psychogenic illness especially in a situation whereby no traceable basis. The group might be a class in a school or workers in an office. Symptoms include not limited to-
- Abdominal pain
- Sore or burning throat
- Chest tightness
- Anxiety etc
HOW DO THESE OUTBREAKS START?
Many outbreaks of mass psychogenic illness start with an environmental “trigger,” like a bad smell or a rumor of exposure to a poison. When one person gets sick, others in the group also start feeling sick. The first person who got sick might have had a real illness, but it might not have been related to the “trigger.”
HOW DO THE SYMPTOMS SPREAD?
An outbreak of mass psychogenic illness is a time of anxiety and worry. Reporters are paying attention to the situation, and rumors are spreading. Ambulances and emergency workers are making people think a serious epidemic is happening. At such a time, if you hear about someone getting sick or if you see someone get sick, it may be enough to make you feel sick too.
DOES THIS MEAN THAT THE SICKNESS IS “ALL IN MY HEAD?”
No, it doesn’t. The people who are in these outbreaks have real signs of sickness that are not “imagined.” They really do have headaches, or they really do feel dizzy. But their illness is not caused by a poison or a germ.
THEN WHY DID I FEEL SICK?
Outbreaks of mass psychogenic illness show us the powerful effect of stress and other people on the way we feel. Think of how “stage fright” can cause nausea, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, a racing heart, a stomachache or even diarrhea. Your body can have a similar strong reaction to the stressful situations involved in mass psychogenic illness.
Prompt recognition, coordinated investigations, effective stress coping strategy, and environmental modifications are essential in alleviation of the widespread anxiety surrounding an episode of mass psychogenic illness. Awareness of the characteristics of mass psychogenic illness is crucial for physicians and other healthcare personnel who respond to such outbreaks.
Dr. Adeyemo Olusola is a medical graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Nigeria along with certificate in advanced diploma in Principles of Nutrition, Management and Leadership, Dublin and Certificate in Global Health from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is an avid reader of books from different oases of life, expert in Medical Statistics and an award winner at both local and international level. “So many a time, I have seen people die avoidable death because of lack of knowledge or information, falling victim of fate. There is then a necessity laid on us to help arm our society to the teeth, as a healthy society cannot be detached from an informed one. Hence, there is need for healthgist.net. We hope you will have a wonderful stay on our website.”