Hypersensitivity to electricity: working definition and additional characterization of the syndrome

J Psychosom Res. 1999 Nov;47(5):429-38. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(99)00048-3.


Those who believe that electric appliances trigger adverse symptoms have coined the label hypersensitivity to electricity. Scientific research has not been able to identify a direct link between electromagnetic fields and symptoms, and no diagnostic criteria exist. Groups with reported hypersensitivity are very heterogeneous. A need exists for an operational working definition and improved characterization of groups. We report an investigation of symptoms and risk indicators associated with reported hypersensitivity to electricity-based on a survey at a high-technology, multinational telecommunications corporation. Comparisons are also made with patients referred to a university department of occupational and environmental health. No association was found between specific psychosocial work characteristics nor personal traits and hypersensitivity to electricity. We present skin and neurovegetative symptom indices. Results indicate that skin, and not neurovegetative symptoms, characterize the syndrome, at least during the first years of illness. For characterization, we propose a set of dimensions, including triggering factors, behavior, and duration of symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electricity / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / classification
  • Hypersensitivity / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / immunology
  • Occupational Health*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Syndrome