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Post-COVID Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, And The Recurring Pseudoscience Of Mass Hysteria
Friday 31 July 2020
Post-Covid syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and the recurring pseudoscience of mass hysteria
The people who want you to think that everything is “all in your mind” are back, their schtick now revised and updated for a COVID-19 world. Here’s the Daily Telegraph:
Some local coronavirus outbreaks could be ‘mass hysteria’, Joint Biosecurity Centre warns
Some local coronavirus outbreaks may just be mass hysteria, the new Government body in charge of Britain’s response has warned, saying that many people could wrongly believe they are infected.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), which has taken the lead on co-ordinating the response in place of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it would be alert to the possibility of “local episodes of mass psychogenic illness” and that they could cause “substantial anxiety, anger and loss of trust in the community” if “poorly handled”.
Mass psychogenic illness – which used to be referred to as mass hysteria – is when people in a community start feeling sick at the same time, even though there is no physical or environmental reason for them to be ill.
These are tough times. It can sometimes seem as if folks are going crazy. So let’s just say that they are. And there you go. Such is the thought process that lies behind the narrative of mass hysteria.
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Claims that COVID-19 outbreaks can result from mass psychogenic illness are especially disturbing, not least because they bring together some interesting, and timely, themes.
One emerging issue relates to the so-called COVID “long-haulers”, people who experience severe after-effects after supposedly “recovering” from COVID-19. Often debilitated for months after their illness, these patients are commonly dismissed with scepticism and disbelief, even by their own doctors.
It is all very reminiscent of the challenges faced in many countries by sufferers of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). These patients too have long faced physician scepticism, accusations of malingering, and negative media coverage. For years they have been told that they have caused their own symptoms, through faulty reasoning and consequent counterproductive behaviours. They are accused of exaggerating or misinterpreting their physical symptoms by clinicians wedded to, or duped by, a thoroughly psycho-behavioural worldview.
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