The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice

Objective Investigations of Controversial and Unorthodox Claims in Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Social Work

Hard Times, Dancing Manias, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Loren Pankratz - Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon

Author Note:
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Loren Pankratz, Ph.D., 1525 SW Palatine St., Portland, OR 97219; E-mail:

Throughout history, individuals have made attributions about the cause of symptoms in ways that are congruent with the expectations, values, and belief systems of their society. For example, in most European countries, the dancing manias that followed the Black Death plague were attributed to demon possession or the torment of sins. However, in Italy, the dancing mania was attributed to the bite of the tarantula. Physicians were powerless in treating the victims, just as priests had been unsuccessful in managing the dancers who sought their assistance. In retrospect, we can see that cultural forces produced these outbursts and that Italians had specific advantages in making biological attributions for their socioreligious turmoil. As modern society developed, many people remain fearful of the chemicals that have assisted our survival. Indeed, some claim that even brief exposure to small amounts of chemicals gives them serious symptoms. These individuals who claim multiple chemical sensitivity also prefer biological explanations for their symptoms. Scientific practitioners must not abandon these patients to quacks but should instead use sensitive clinical skills in the assessment and management of these struggling people.

You can read the full text of this article in
The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice
, vol. 1, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2002).
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