Hwabyeong in Korea

Hwabyeong is a Culture Bound Syndrome related to the Korean culture. The disorder occurs in middle-ages women of relatively low socio-economic standing. The disorder is an anger syndrome with symptoms that include a subjective feeling of anger with anger-related bodily and behavioral symptoms. The literal meaning of Hwabyung is “anger disease” or “fire disease”. A survey of the general population in a rural area in Korea reported that 4.1% were reported having Hwabyung. These women believe that they have suppressed anger that had built up over time that then disturbs the balance of the five bodily elements. Suffers might experience heavy feeling in the chest, perceived abdominal mass, sleeplessness, hot or cold flashes, and blurred vision. Also some suffer from dry mouth, heart palpitations, insomnia, and anorexia.

Biologically this illness can cause other potentially more severe health issues that stem from stress and depression even if the Hwabyeong does not the sufferer directly in a biological sense. Culturally this illness is perceived as a real illness and is believed to be brought on by the culture which these women live in. Individually the women who claim to suffer they are the victims of chronic social aggression. Others say they are the victim of social unfairness including suppression, deprivation, discrimination, exploitation, poverty, betrayal, or swindling that caused their manifestation of the illness.

For treatment these women first seek help from physicians, including internists before visiting a psychiatrist. Others patients search for treatment with pharmacists and traditional herb physicians again before reaching out to a psychiatrist. The treatment methods include psychotherapy, drug treatment, and family therapy. These treatments are mostly in the professional sector. Others are known to have sought help in the folk sector. Some patients converted to Christianity for Christian faith healing and confirming prayer while other turned to shaman rituals known as ‘goot’.

World Culture Psychiatry Research Review

http://www.wcprr.org/pdf/04-01/2009.01.1221.pdf

1 thought on “Hwabyeong in Korea

  1. This illness the “Hwabyeong in Korea” is an illness that I have not read about before, and as much as I do not know much about it, I also think that it should be considered as an illness or a disease and not a culture bound syndrome. As you mentioned in your blog that the patients who suffer such an illness may “experience heavy feeling in the chest, perceived abdominal mass, sleeplessness, hot or cold flashes, and blurred vision. Also some suffer from dry mouth, heart palpitations, insomnia, and anorexia”. Also the main symptom is “anger”; the reason I think that this illness should not be classified as culture bound syndrome is that all these symptoms are the same or similar to the symptoms in depressed patients, and also in patients who suffer an anxiety disorder. Also we can find these symptoms in all genders and all ages, and not only middle aged women. The advantage of classifying the as an illness is that these women will be able to get a fair medical care and also a fair treatment from the people around them.

    This condition could be compared to the US in patients who suffer depression and anxiety; there are also other mental diseases that could have similar symptoms. And the way people act to such illnesses is by going to therapy, taking medications, and visiting psychiatrists; that way they get fair treatment from both their doctors and also their community.

    ~Yasmin Elgamel

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