Hysterical epidemics

Other Names:
Nineties hysteria
Imaginary illnesses
Fashionable hysteria

The 1990s saw a rapid growth in new and mutating forms of hysteria, amplified by modern communications and fin de siècle anxiety. The attention given to new diseases – or what have been presumed to be diseases – by the mass media gave the symptoms a social legitimacy and made them respectable. People learned about new diseases from the media and then, consciously or unconsciously, developed the symptoms.

The problem derives mainly from the widespread assumption that psychological illness is imaginary, an expression of malingering or moral weakness. People are therefore eager to be assured that they have a "real disease". They then turn to inconclusive medical tests and treatments for a cure, rather than to psychotherapy.


Manifestations of the 1990s hysteria include: Gulf War syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, recovered memory loss, satanic ritual abuse, multiple personality disorders, and alien abduction. In keeping with the findings of Freud, the majority of those who have succumbed to the hysterical epidemic are women. More than 90% of those who say they have recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse are women; 9 out of 10 patients diagnosed with multiple personality disorders are women; accusations of satanic ritual abuse come primarily from women; three-quarters of those who say they have been abducted by aliens are women.

Broader Problems:
Collective panic
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST