Ergotism, Hysteria, and Disorders Detected in Salem Essays

Ergotism, Hysteria, and Disorders Detected in Salem Essays

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Many people believe the Salem Witch Trials were caused by Ergotism, while others believe it to be just a form of hysteria, but what if I told you it could have been all of those combined together with another theory added in? In the story, The Crucible, mass hysteria broke out all through Salem being caused by the witch trials. The witch trials, however, may not have been the only thing causing the hysteria. Argot poisoning in the water along with puritan pressure causing the little girls to act out and throw fits could also be blamed on starting the hysteria. Disorders that could have been passed down through heredity could also have a part in this.

Hysteria was a common contribution to the Salem Witch Trials. The first instances of hysteria seemed to originated in the event of Tituba and the girls dancing naked in the woods and yelling nonsense. With that little event it sparked something bigger, something like a mass Psychogenic Illness, MPI, defined as the contagious spread of behavior within a group of individuals where one person serves as the catalyst or “starter” and the others imitate the behavior. Before long more and more girls were contributing in the weird behavior that consumed Salem. The physical manifestations of illness in the girls have been explained as being conversion symptoms due to intrapsychic conflict. Their physical expression of psychological conflict is a compromise between the unacceptable impulses and the mind’s attempt to ignore them. Physical manifestations usually include fainting, malaise, convulsions with hyperventilation, and excitement. Transmission is by sight or sound brought about by a triggering factor which affects members of the group, who share some degree of unconscious fantasies. ...


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Woolf, Alan. "Witchcraft or mycotoxin? The Salem witch trials." Clinical Toxicology 38.4 (2000): 457-460.

Caporael, Linnda R. "Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?" Science 192.4234 (1976): 21-26. JSTOR. Web. 05 Mar. 2014. .
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