Tag Archives: psychology

In which I am a stereotypical scientist because my first response is “Neat!”

5 Feb

Apparently there’s been a story making the rounds lately, about¬†a dozen junior high and high school girls in New York with what is being diagnosed as conversion disorder, a psychological disorder that manifests itself in tics and other motor or sensory symptoms, for which you would normally expect a biological (rather than psychological) interpretation. The disorder on display in New York doesn’t appear to be traditionally contagious, or caused by environmental factors. Naturally, this makes people a little nervous.

Being a firm if somewhat facetious believer in House’s definition of “idiopathic” — “from the Latin meaning we’re idiots ’cause we can’t figure out what’s causing it” — I was skeptical. But the school district, department of health, and related agencies have conducted what appears to be a pretty thorough check on all the other possible causes, as seen in this report. Some of the highlights (what, you don’t¬†want to read an 8-page scientific report in your spare time?) follow:

  • The 12 cases have nothing in common save for their school, which has been checked for environmental factors that could have caused the symptoms, and their gender.
  • 1 of the 12 cases had a preexisting diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome, and 2 other cases had earlier diagnoses of other illnesses associated with tics.
  • The cases have been dispersed and ongoing over the past seven months.
  • The time course of the cases indicates that it was NOT (repeat: was NOT) linked with Gardisil or any other vaccination.
  • Of the 12 cases, 8 were examined by a pediatric neurologist. All 8 of those cases had experienced “significant life stressors.” (This one seems to be the big blinking red lights sign, at least from my point of view.)
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