Stop that! It’s not Tourette’s but a new type of mass sociogenic illness: Müller-Vahl KR et al.

Brain, awab316, https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awab316


Kirsten R Müller-Vahl, Anna Pisarenko, Ewgeni Jakubovski, Carolin Fremer

Author affiliations:
Department of Psychiatry, Socialpsychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School,
Correspondence to: Prof. Dr. Kirsten R Müller-Vahl
Department of Psychiatry, Socialpsychiatry and Psychotherapy
Hannover Medical School
Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1
D-30625 Hannover, Germany
E-mail: mueller-vahl.kirsten@mh-hannover.de


We report the first outbreak of a new type of mass sociogenic illness (MSI) that in contrast to all previously reported episodes is spread solely via social media. Accordingly, we suggest the more specific term “mass social media-induced illness” (MSMI).

In Germany, current outbreak of MSMI is initiated by a “virtual” index case, who is the second most successful YouTube creator in Germany and enjoys enormous popularity among young people. Affected teenagers present with similar or identical functional “Tourette-like” behaviours, which can be clearly differentiated from tics in Tourette syndrome.

Functional “Tourette-like” symptoms can be regarded as the “modern” form of the well-known motor variant of MSI. Moreover, they can be viewed as the 21th century expression of a culture-bound stress reaction of our post-modern society emphasizing the uniqueness of individuals and valuing their alleged exceptionality, thus promoting attention-seeking behaviours and aggravating the permanent identity crisis of modern man. We wish to raise awareness of the current global “Tourette-like” MSMI outbreak. A large number of young people across different countries are affected, with considerable impact on health care systems and society as a whole, since spread via social media is no longer restricted to specific locations such as local communities or school environments.spread via social media is no longer restricted to specific locations such as schools or towns.