Culture-Bound Disorders

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Published In

Encyclopedia Of Critical Psychology


The term culture-bound disorder refers to a pattern of symptoms (mental, physical, and/or relational) that is experienced by members of a specific cultural group and that is recognized as a disorder by members of those groups. Culture-bound disorders may involve somatic expressions (e.g., temporary loss of consciousness or involuntarily clenched teeth), cognitions (e.g., a belief that one’s genitals are retracting into the body or a conviction that one has been abducted by extraterrestrial beings), or behaviors (e.g., extreme startle responses, coprophagia, or speaking in tongues). The terms culture-bound syndrome, culture-specific disorder, and folk illness are also used to refer to such phenomena. Culture-bound disorders occur throughout the parts world. Some examples are amok, latah, and koro (parts of Southeast Asia); semen loss or dhat (East India); brain fag (West Africa); ataque de nervios and susto (Latinos); falling out (US South and Caribbean); pibloktoq (Arctic and subarctic Inughuit societies); and Zaar possession states (Ethiopia and parts of North Africa).


Psychiatric diagnosis, Transcultural psychiatry, Folk illness, culture, Folk illness

Published By



T. Teo