The salem witch trials and mass hysteria

Essay by ColumbiaworkerCollege, Undergraduate April 2005

download word file, 5 pages 3.0

Downloaded 46 times

mass' hyste'ria


a condition affecting a group of persons, characterized by excitement or anxiety, irrational behavior or beliefs, or inexplicable symptoms of illness.

In 1692, Salem Village (now Danvers, Massachusetts) was the scene of a moral panic that spread throughout the region and involved witchcraft accusations which led to trials, torture, imprisonment, and executions.

Mass hysteria is characterized by the rapid spread of conversion disorder, a condition involving the appearance of bodily complaints for which there is no organic basis. In such episodes, psychological distress is converted or channeled into physical symptoms. Symptoms typically include headache, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, and general weakness. Motor hysteria is common in intolerable social situations such as strict school and religious settings where discipline is excessive. Symptoms include trance-like states, melodramatic acts of rebellion known as histrionics, and what physicians term "psychomotor agitation". In short, mass hysterias are collective delusions as they involve false or exaggerated beliefs, but only rarely do collective delusions involve mass hysteria as to do so, they must report illness symptoms.

Many factors contribute to the formation: the mass media; rumors; extraordinary anxiety or excitement; cultural beliefs and stereotypes; the social and political context; and reinforcing actions by authorities such as politicians, or institutions of social control such as the police or military.

I believe that maybe one or two of the girls of Salem might have suffered from hysteria because of their strict religious rules but the others were faking. I think what happened to the rest of the young girls', claming witch and devil forces over them, was not hysteria but instead a game and trick they played for attention and due to massive boredom. Mass hysteria is a good term to label the witch hunts event because it's rapid spread of panic in the community. But...