– On Sunday, some of the girls who suffered from the “LeRoy twitch” will graduate from high school. They’re doing a lot better because they got treatment for conversion disorder. The diagnosis was controversial and many parents and community members refused to believe it. People searched in vain for environmental or bacterial causes. There was never any reason not to believe the mass hysteria diagnosis and it appears it was the correct theory all along.
This case raises very legitimate questions about media responsibility. Reporters continued to call the illness a “mystery” even though there was no evidence backing up alternate theories and the girls who accepted their diagnosis early on were getting better. The “hysteria about the hysteria” got so bad, WGRZ in Buffalo chose not to air video of the afflicted girls on the advice of experts who said the attention was hurting their recovery.
“The vindication for us is that the patients are better. They’ve got their lives back,” said Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, who treated 15 of the girls at Dent Neurologic Institute, one of the nation’s largest neurology clinics. He said his patients were “80 to 90 percent” cured.
As the problem spiraled in the tiny community, celebrity doctors like Dr. Drew Pinsky hosted some of the girls on national television, others girls appeared regularly on local television and in print media with headlines about their “mystery illness.” The girls posted updates on their seemingly bizarre condition to Facebook and videos of their symptoms to YouTube.
“We noticed that the kids who were not in the media were getting better; the kids who were in the media were still very symptomatic,” Mechtler said.
“One thing we’ve learned is how social media and mainstream media can worsen the symptoms,” he said. “The mass hysteria was really fueled by the national media, social media – all this promoted the worsening of symptoms by putting these people at the national forefront.”
But, with some exceptions, most neurologists have been steadfast in their support of the conversion disorder diagnosis. In April, this case was presented to members of the American Academy of Neurology.
“They supported the diagnosis,” Mechtler said.
Mechtler…suggested that Erin Brockovich now go on national TV and take back her dramatic speculation about environmental toxins being the root cause of the disorders.
– Monroe County is cracking down on people who don’t fill out their jury questionnaires.
– It looks like the bill requiring mandatory kindergarten attendance in the Rochester City School District has passed the legislature.
– Charles Blow, columnist for the New York Times, wrote about the Greece bullies. He goes off on a weird tangent about bullying in politics.
– A very prominent crusader against gay marriage has changed his mind. He wrote a powerful essay in the New York Times.
– A German supermarket didn’t think anyone would show up when it offered $250 of free groceries to people who would shop naked. The store was wrong.