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A sociogenic illness occurs when people in a group have similar and sometimes bizarre symptoms that medical experts cannot explain. It is also known as a mass pathogenic illness, epidemic hysteria, or mass hysteria.

There are some cases of sociogenic illness in history 

Sociogenic illness has occurred several times throughout history. The most famous was the dancing plague in Strasbourg, France, in 1518. In this case, some residents could not stop dancing for days. In many cases of sociogenic illness, the affected group seems to be going through stress. For instance, the residents of Strasbourg were trying to make ends meet and make it through disease and multiple famines.

The sick will sometimes believe they have come in contact with something harmful like a contagion or toxin. However, medical experts find none of these things. Despite doctors not finding a cause for the disease, the symptoms are not fake. People with the disease actually suffer from their symptoms. For this reason, it is critical not to shame them.

Many experts tend to avoid using ‘hysteria’ to describe sociogenic illness. The reason is that hysteria was used in the past to demean woman and their experiences as it labeled them as prone to outbursts and psychologically unstable. This association is essential as many experts think sociogenic illness is more common in women. However, there isn’t enough evidence for this as not many publications describe the illness.

Sociogenic illness was on the rise during the pandemic

Social media may now play a part in the rise of sociogenic illnesses. During the pandemic, neurologists noticed many patients with strange vocalizations similar to those in Tourette syndrome and involuntary body movements. Many of them were teenage girls.

When physicians ruled out all possibilities, they found that many of their patients watched TikTok videos of people pretending to have Tourette syndrome. This occurrence showed how people no longer needed geographical boundaries for sociogenic illness to occur as they could connect through the Internet.

Like with other cases of sociogenic illness, this one occurred at a time of great stress. The patients could have been trying to grapple with the changes the pandemic brought to their lives. However, scientists still don’t know what makes some people more prone to sociogenic illness than others.