This chapter focuses epidemic mental disorders, which refer to mental disorders or pathological psychological reactions that occur among groups of people in a contagious way within a relatively short period of time in a particular social setting. The mental disorders may involve a small number of subjects or hundreds or even thousands collectively through the process of contagion in an endemic or epidemic fashion. The psychiatric symptoms are usually manifested as hysterical conversion reactions such as fainting, paralysis, or convulsions; or panic states such as fear of disaster, danger, or death. However, they may also take the form of collective depressive or delusional states or a mixture of various disturbances. An important condition that seems to be present is some preexisting stress or group apprehension caused by a various sources, such as an authority-submission conflict, academic or achievement stress, fear of enemy infiltration, or sociocultural or interethnic tension associated with ethnic migration, refugees, or socioeconomic change. In other words, some unusual tension, fear, or anger among the group becomes a fertile ground for such outbreaks. From a public health standpoint, when any collective mental disorder begins, it is important to establish a diagnosis quickly so that an organic cause, such as infection or intoxication, can be ruled out. Once the underlying cause of a tension or conflict is detected, an effort should be made to focus on the problem and resolve it as soon as possible.

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