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Ergotism, Hysteria, And Disorders Detected In Salem

1211 words - 5 pages

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. A final thing that could have started the hysteria shenanigan is puberty, a time of inner turmoil, is thought to have contributed to the victims acting out through fits, convulsions, and erratic behavior.

A reason most people do not think had an effect on the Salem Witch Trials but seemed to have had a role were disorders. According to documents and stories there were descendants of people in the town which means the possibility of disorders being passed down were there. In late winter and early spring of 1692, residents of Salem Village, Massachusetts, a thinly settled town of six hundred began to suffer from a strange physical and mental malady. Fits, hallucinations, temporary paralysis, and “distracted” rampages were suddeny occuring sporadically in the community. The livestock, too, seemed to suffer from the unexplainable illness. With the limited scientific and medical knowledge of the time, physicians who were consulted could only offer witchcraft as an explanation. Psychiatric disorder is used in a slightly different sense in the argument that the Witchcraft crisis was a consequence of two party factionalism in Salem Village in this account the girls are unimportant factors in the entire incident. Their...

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