An increasing number of students in a secondary convent girls school developed syncope attacks over a time course of about two months. Fourteen students who suffered from syncope and 12 other students from the same class with no symptoms were assessed by a team of psychologists and paediatricians with the aim of identifying the cause of the problem and to formulate possible remedial action. Psychological assessments included a mental state examination, developmental, personal and psychological history, state-trait anxiety, self-esteem, hypnotic suggestibility, and students' beliefs about the cause and nature of the syncope attacks. Physical investigations included physical examination, blood pressure and electrocardiogram. The results indicated that most participants and controls had no physical or psychological pathologies. The two groups were not different on the physical and psychological measures. Analyses of the interview data, however, indicated that all the syncope sufferers belonged to a cohesive and exclusive social network. Social psychological circumstances rather than individual psychopathology were noted to be primarily responsible for the spread and maintenance of the mass hysterical influence. Intervention consisted of health education, authoritative reassurance and back-up support. Follow-up assessment after three and 12 months indicated no further syncope episodes.
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