The Twitching Condition in Le Roy

It sounds archaic, but conversion disorder is likely to blame for the wave of tics and other symptoms that struck this tiny New York town, according to The New York Times Magazine.

Image: Associated Press

Not everyone likes the explanation, but many doctors believe conversion disorder is what's behind the twitching that has stricken the teenage girls of Le Roy, New York. In other words, the mysterious involuntary spasms are a physical manifestation of stress. Considering the mini-epidemic struck only the most popular teenage girls -- and only the girls -- this seems like a bizarre explanation. Popular cheerleaders have less stress than bullied losers, right? Parents thought it might have to do with the environment or maybe some sort of virus -- a 19th-century mental disorder spread by mass hysteria sounds too squishy. "It's a very hard pill for me to swallow -- what are we, living in the 1600s?" one of the girls' guardians told The New York Times Magazine's Susan Dominus, who has a cover story on the ordeal in this week's issue.

But, just because conversion disorder feels archaic, that doesn't mean it's not the affliction to blame. It's what many doctors believe caused the outbreak, reports Dominus. And, comparing what Dominus collected from doctors to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (aka, DSM-IV), which has the standard criteria for psychological disorders including conversion disorder, we see the Le Roy girls' have all the symptoms.

Read the full story at The Atlantic Wire.

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