Culture-Bound Syndrome

Culture-bound syndrome describes an illness or combination of symptoms that is recognized as a disease or disorder only within a specific culture or group. It is not recognized as a disorder in another other society or culture. The DSM-IV listed many culture-bound syndromes like 'running amok' which is a sudden aggressive and destructive attack against others or the environment. It typically occurs in an individual after a period of withdrawn behavior or broodiness.

Running amok is considered a syndrome in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia (or 'mal de pelea' in Puerto Rico) but not recognized in any other culture. The DSM-V does not specifically mention the term culture-bound syndrome and attempts to explain this concept in a different and less culturally biased way. It has been replaced with a three-tiered explanation of 1) cultural syndromes, 2) cultural idioms of distress, and 3) cultural explanations of distress or perceived causes.

Another example of this concept that is included in the DSM-V is a khyâl attack ("wind attack") which occurs in Cambodian populations. It is an anxiety attack characterized by being dizzy, having palpitations and/or a sore neck, and shortness of breath. It can be brought on by fright, worry, standing up, riding in vehicles, and crowds. The descriptions of the attack are specific to Cambodian culture and their perceptions of the disorder and symptoms.

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