A mysterious illness has surfaced among 12 girls at a New York high school. The teenagers shake uncontrollably at times, stutter and exhibit bursts of nervous twitches.
Parents have demanded that administrators at LeRoy Junior/Senior High School look into the illness, which emerged in October.
Last Tuesday, the school district stressed that it was doing everything it could to address their concerns and released a statement on their website that said, “The environment or an infection is not the cause of the students’ tics. There are many causes of tic-like symptoms. Stress can often worsen tic-like symptoms. These symptoms are real.”
Two of the girls suffering from the mystery illness, Thera Sanchez and Lydia Parker, appeared on HLN's "Dr. Drew" on Friday night to talk about their condition.
"I'm not good -- not today -- my tics got worse,” Sanchez said in the interview.
Her mother, Melisa Philips added, “She also now has daily blackouts and seizures … not like epilepsy seizures, but where she’s somewhat lucid and can feel her body being rigid and it's almost like she’s a stone statue. And she can’t move and she’s very weak and tired, and so, it just continually seems to get new symptoms.”
Philips added that all the girls had been treated individually with physicians assuming that it was stress-induced or from "conversion disorder."
Psychiatrist Dr. John Sharp, MD, told Dr. Drew that he has examined groups of women in the past that were high-stakes card dealers who have had conversion reactions.
“Simply put, a conversion disorder is a condition when a person converts psychic distress,” he said. “This is going to be hard to understand, but not necessarily consciously felt. The brain converts it from one thing into another -- into something physical. And you can have tingling. You can have lack of ability. You can have tics -- feel numb or go hoarse or go blind. And, it’s not faking it.”
Dr. Drew asked Parker if she was aware that other girls at the school had this condition at the time she had developed her symptoms.
“I was,” she responded. “I was in school for a little while after it started, but I ended up leaving the last week of October because I didn’t feel I could handle school anymore, and my doctors didn’t feel I could handle school anymore."
Sanchez had a seizure during the interview itself, but her mother assured Dr. Drew that she was OK, saying that the seizures have been happening daily since December.
Dr. Drew and Dr. Sharp talked backstage immediately after the segments aired, which you can watch by clicking here. Dr. Drew will have more on the story this Monday, and will continue to monitor the girls' condition.
Watch Dr. Drew weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow the show on Twitter @DrDrewHLN and Facebook.