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Engle, B. (1960). Psychiatric Quarterly. XXXII, 1958: Observation of a Hysterical Epidemic in a Hospital Ward. F. K. Taylor and R. C. A. Hunter. Pp. 821-839.. Psychoanal Q., 29:144.
    
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psychiatric Quarterly. XXXII, 1958: Observation of a Hysterical Epidemic in a Hospital Ward. F. K. Taylor and R. C. A. Hunter. Pp. 821-839.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:144

Psychiatric Quarterly. XXXII, 1958: Observation of a Hysterical Epidemic in a Hospital Ward. F. K. Taylor and R. C. A. Hunter. Pp. 821-839.

Bernice Engle

Taylor and Hunter describe an epidemic among twenty-four female patients with psychosomatic symptoms, aged around thirty, on an open hospital ward. The epidemic is traced to the nightmare of an unmarried woman physician of twenty-seven, which was soon known in the ward. She dreamed that her whole family had watched her in labor and that two female relatives, also physicians, had assisted in the delivery. On waking she found herself menstruating for the first time in seven months. The ensuing hysterical epidemic centered around the idea of childbirth, sex, and death. After excited discussions for some three weeks, hysterical symptoms corresponding to experiences of birth and rebirth developed in a small group of patients. They enacted hysterical experiences of parturition and of being the mother or the baby.

The authors consider that 'the essence of mental epidemics lies in emotional events', and not in the imitative spread of behavior or in the dissemination of ideas 'regarded as "infectious"'. In the hospital group the idea of childbirth appeared to be the main infectious idea; but this was because group emotions had been covertly shared or were 'pluralistic', and the idea served to stimulate and disseminate the emotions in the group. This process occurs only when there is 'an unusual readiness for emotional explosions' in a group.

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Article Citation

Engle, B. (1960). Psychiatric Quarterly. XXXII, 1958. Psychoanal. Q., 29:144

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