I hope you can help me regarding some Relentless Itching “Hysteria” that has swept through the local school district. As a church if parents come to the Lord's church, how do we handle the following news?
A wave of hysteria swept through [schools] last week when several learners, primarily girls, began experiencing intense itching sensations and unexplained behavior. The unsettling incident prompted school authorities to convene an emergency meeting with parents to seek solutions to this perplexing situation.
Sources close to the matter revealed that the affected learners were taken to a nearby clinic for examination, but no definitive diagnosis could be established.
“We’re facing a real dilemma. The students at Good Hope were incessantly scratching their bodies, complaining of relentless itching,” a source stated. “The girls were particularly affected. When we took them to the clinic, they couldn’t identify any underlying cause. We’re at a loss for what to do.”
The source expressed an urgent need for assistance, emphasizing the distress experienced by the affected children. “Some students were already screaming before even reaching the school premises,” they added.
Another concerned parent recounted her child’s ordeal, describing bloodshot eyes and a sudden onset of symptoms.
“When my daughter arrived home, she was crying uncontrollably. I initially thought they had a quarrel. Her eyes were bloodshot red, and even her mouth appeared to be bleeding. I resorted to some traditional remedies, which provided temporary relief. However, the same symptoms soon emerged in my son, who ultimately required hospitalization. Words fail to capture the severity of the situation.”
There is a phenomenon, known for decades, that anxiety can bring on itching. A cycle can then develop: "Chronic itch is associated with increased anxiety, and, in turn, anxiety and stress tend to exacerbate itch, leading to a vicious cycle not unlike the itch-scratch cycle" [Sanders].
What you cited appears to be a classic case. Because the parents get anxious about their children, their anxiety rubs off on the children, causing yet another cycle.
Since the source of the itching is anxiety, the parent's response is calmness. Each parent needs to teach his or her child to avoid anxiety by learning to trust God. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). This is best taught by demonstration. See Overcoming Emotional Problems.
- P Robinson, "Outbreak of itching and rash. Epidemic hysteria in an elementary school", Archive of Internal Medicine, 1984 Oct;144(10):1959-62.
- Kristen M. Sanders, "The Vicious Cycle of Itch and Anxiety," Neuroscience Biobehavioral Review, 2018 Apr; 87: 17–26.