Can You Catch Mass Psychogenic Illness From Reading?

Mass Psychogenic Illness

Watching the news is somewhat addictive, and they sure do have their format down pat.  There’s an old adage in journalism, “If Dog Bites Man, It’s Not News, but If Man Bites Dog, It’s News.”  I think the news today really adds to the man bites dog, and emphasizes the bad stories.  This creates a “mean world” that we live in inside our heads at times, and really spreads on social media.

Mass Psychogenic Illness Social Media and MindfulnessApparently, there’s actual illness that can be transmitted through face to face contact, and more recently, reading posts on the internet…  I kid not fearless readers…  It’s a form of mass hysteria called “Mass Psychogenic Illness“, and is allegedly contagious, has been around forever, and is now possibly able to be spread through dem dere interwebs.

From Psychology Today:

“…why has there been an upsurge of cases in the United States? An outbreak of MPI occurred In the town of Le Roy, New York, in 2011 when eighteen teenaged girls developed bizarre symptoms including uncontrollable twitches and motor spasms with no apparent cause. Perhaps even more remarkably, the reported victims also included a thirty-six-year-old nurse who was not directly involved with any of the other victims. Though the possibility that the symptoms might be due to toxic waste from Le Roy’s manufacturing plants was raised, that was ruled out fairly quickly…  …medical experts concluded that MPI was to blame.

Although word of mouth has been implicated in previous MPI cases, the Le Roy case has demonstrated the role that mass media can play in spreading psychogenic symptoms. With increasing media coverage of the outbreak, including a high-profile investigation launched by Erin Brockovitch, the symptoms grew worse despite only affecting teenaged girls. Along with the news reports suggesting that the victims in the case were “faking it”, social media also played a role with recriminations and reports of new symptoms being spread by Facebook and other sources. In the case of Marge Fitzsimmons, the 36-year old nurse who also developed symptoms, almost all of the information she had on what was happening in Le Roy came from Facebook…”

This is a strange phenomenon that may be mitigated through mindfulness practice.  With the ability to see “space” around our thoughts when we practice, we may be able to trace the path of our behavior after being exposed and possibly infected with MPI.  This might help people who practice mindfulness avoid being infected with MPI.

It’s an interesting avenue to explore, nonetheless.

What are your thoughts?