Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 29, 2007

Mass hysteria? Blame it on stress, anxiety and spirits

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:40 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Stress, anxiety, dissociation and the supernatural. These are cited as causes of mass hysteria.
Hospital Bahagia Tanjung Rambutan director and senior consultant psychiatrist Dr Suarn Singh said hysteria was caused by dissociation.
Dissociation is the detachment of a group of mental processes from the victim’s main body of consciousness, which results in hysteria.
Another psychiatrist, who declined to be named, said it was caused by anxiety and tension among a group of people living together, such as in boarding schools or factory hostels.
“It happens to people who share the same beliefs. It is a culture-bound syndrome,” he said.
The psychiatrist said young women were more prone to it as they were less capable of dealing with examinations or work-related stress.
He said victims of mass hysteria should be separated to “break the rhythm”.
“Give them time to calm down and talk to them to find out what is causing the stress.”
Ustaz Mohd Arief Mohd Batcha said stress was a cause of hysteria but was quick to point out that the presence of spirits could also produce the same result.
“Worshipping a deity or object for personal gain can attract spirits to the area and innocent people will suffer.”
The founder of the traditional medical centre Cakra Alam said mass hysteria could be “contagious”, especially for the faint-hearted.
“Those in charge of people hit by hysteria should give them space so that they can breathe and calm down. They can also rub coconut oil on the victims’ heads and give them cold drinks to lessen the symptoms.”
He advised people to avoid stress and “get closer to God” to prevent hysteria.
On Tuesday, several students of SMK Section 11 in Shah Alam were hit by mass hysteria.
Parents said the hysteria began at the boys’ dormitory last Friday and had continued over the weekend.
Other parents claimed that some of the students were possessed by spirits and the teachers there were overwhelmed.

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