NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doctors Perform Appendectomies, When Psychosurgery Would Do

April 21, 2000

Recent outbreaks of illness attributed by researchers to hysteria, known medically as "sociogenic illness," have involved a variety of symptoms (headache, muscle ache, nausea) victims blame on some unknown environmental toxin. Patients usually recover without treatment. But now researchers report the first outbreak of sociogenic appendicitis -- which doctors treated with surgery.

  • A year ago, health officials in Montpelier, Idaho, noticed a sudden increase in appendicitis: between March and June, 56 appendectomies had been done compared with seven in the same period the year before -- an 800 percent increase!
  • About 86 percent of the patients were female, most of them teenagers.
  • Yet the tissue removed from almost all the patients was normal, say investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The symptoms were real enough to fool local doctors, CDC investigators reported during the annual meeting of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

Interestingly, the outbreak ended in June, at the end of the school year.

Source: Laura Bell, "Mass Hysteria Behind Big Rise in Appendectomies, Study Says," Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2000.


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