Mass psychogenic illness: role of the individual physician

Am Fam Physician. 2000 Dec 15;62(12):2649-53, 2655-6.


Mass psychogenic illness is characterized by symptoms, occurring among a group of persons with shared beliefs regarding those symptoms, that suggest organic illness but have no identifiable environmental cause and little clinical or laboratory evidence of disease. Mass psychogenic illness typically affects adolescents or children, groups under stress and females disproportionately more than males. Symptoms often follow an environmental trigger or illness in an index case. They can spread rapidly by apparent visual transmission, may be aggravated by a prominent emergency or media response, and frequently resolve after patients are separated from each other and removed from the environment in which the outbreak began. Physicians should consider this diagnosis when faced with a cluster of unexplained acute illness.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / epidemiology*
  • Acute Disease / psychology*
  • Acute Disease / therapy
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysteria / epidemiology*
  • Hysteria / psychology*
  • Hysteria / therapy
  • Male
  • Mass Behavior*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician's Role*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Teaching Materials
  • United States / epidemiology