MASS hysteria has been recorded as far back as the Middle Ages and continues to occur to this day. Such episodes are more common than we think.
Typically the episodes occur in children and teenagers, girls more than boys, and fainting and hyperventilation are the most obvious signs.
Usually the illness is overcome once the afflicted crowd disappears. The condition appears to rub on to new victims when they observe others becoming hysterical.
It is observed that those afflicted by mass hysteria are under psychological and physical stress, often starved, tired or both. Therefore, it appears that these stress factors make their minds take over their bodies and swirl them into hysteria.
The victims are floored by the excitement and anxiety of the first initiator or initiators and go into hyperventilation, fainting and nausea, at times holding their stomachs as if in pain.
The social set-up of the group can also play out in the spread of the signs and symptoms. If the “popular” girls faint first, the less popular will follow suit and they will all fall like dominoes.
Fear and excitement cause hyperventilation (breathing too quickly), resulting in excess expulsion of carbon dioxide. Low carbon dioxide levels in the body cause muscles in the limbs to spasm, which accounts for the numbness, tingling and muscle twitching that usually occur. The low level of carbon dioxide in the body can be treated by simply making the victims breathe into a paper bag after which the signs and symptoms rapidly disappear.
Hysteria is a mind-over-matter phenomenon which is infectious. Management of the workers should ensure that their staff have full stomachs before they clock in to work. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
DR A. SOORIAN
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