12 Teens Diagnosed With Same Bizarre Disease as Salem Witches

salem witches wax museumIf you're the parent of a teen, dealing with peer pressure is just part of the job. We expect to be nagged on a daily basis about our kid's desperate need for the newest iPhone or whatever (everybody else has one!). That said, I kind of doubt the parents of those 12 high school girls who all suddenly came down with a mysterious Tourette's-like syndrome thought peer pressure could be to blame. 

Still, if Dr. Laszlo Mechtler's theory is correct, it is an extreme sort of peer pressure that's making the girls sick: Mass hysteria.

Mechtler, an Amherst neurologist who's been treating several of the afflicted students, says mass hysteria (otherwise known as conversion disorder) is the most likely explanation for the outbreak:


"It's happened before, all around the world, in different parts of the world. It's a rare phenomena. Physicians are intrigued by it. The bottom line is these teenagers will get better."

That last bit is good news, of course, but as a parent, the thought of your kid succumbing to mass hysteria isn't exactly a comforting one. We all know teens can be a bit too open to suggestion, especially when that suggestion is made by somebody "cool." It's one thing if your kid's urgent desire to "fit in" leads to an obsession with expensive clothing or gadgets.

But a "movement disorder" characterized by tics, outbursts, and sudden stuttering? It's like the Salem witch trials all over again. Most modern scholars point to mass hysteria as the driving force behind the frenzy (though others think a hallucinogenic plant fungus was the culprit).

Of course there are more recent examples of dangerous teen copycat behavior, too: How about those incredibly sick, sometimes even fatal "games" kids are into these days involving reckless driving, violence, prescription medications, and the like? Or the pregnancy pact supposedly made by a group of Massachusetts girls?

Just one more reason to focus as much parental energy as possible into raising strong, independent kids who think for themselves. Kids who value their worth as unique individuals. Kids who can spot a stupid trend when they see one.

Do you think mass hysteria is the cause for this unexplained outbreak?


Image via Svenstorm/Flickr

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