Pibloktoq- Arctic hysteria

Piblokoq also known as “Arctic hysteria” is a disease that affects people in circumpolar region in the winter months.  It has been documented since the 1800’s and has many theories of possible source. Affecting more adult women then men, while having no confirmed cases of children affected. When a person begins a episode of this disorder they will begin to scream, shout, curse, break items, tear clothing, and run out into cold temperatures.  Some result in comas or seizures. It has been found that the illness did not begin until the natives of these lands began to meet outsiders from Europe and America.  There are many theories of reasoning for why this happens to this culture.  Some suggest that it is because of stress or overload from the over culture mixing and loss of their natural ways. The pressure to make it in the changing world may begin to overwhelm the susceptible.  While others have suggested that is because the natives have raised their children like “savages”. Lack of vitamin C or Vitamin D even calcium amounts have been tested.  But no concrete evidence has proven any theory or reasoning to give a good cause.

People who are non-native to the land have reported all of the case reports of these rage-type episodes expressed by this culture. Which could show that it is something very common for this group of people and they expect these types of actions to happen from time to time.  Not a large surprise to see caregivers for those who have frequent episodes. Those who live among those affected often or those who live within the communities are to see these types of attacks. The language barrier in the semi polar region causes difficulty to the outer world with the lack of words that can be translated back and forth to help understand the illness. This reason alone may cause the delay in cause diagnosis, without communication it is impossible to get quality symptoms and results.




 Rachel D. Higgs, “Pibloktoq – A study of a culture-bound syndrome in the circumpolar region,” The Macalester Review,  (2011) 1:1-9.


Wallace, Anthony F. C. and Ackerman, Robert E. “An Interdisciplinary Approach to Mental Disorder among the Polar Eskimos of Northwest Greenland,” Anthoropoligica (1960) 249-260.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Joseph Wallace says:

    My definition of culture is the accustomed system of behaviors, beliefs, and practices all shared by a group of people. Culture is always something that has been mind boggling for me. When dealing with different cultures, I always like to look at things from an outsider perspective to try and learn as much about that culture as a possibly can, and compare things to my own. I went to Peru last summer and had to adjust to a quick integration into a new culture. There were many practices that caught me of guard and that I had to make normal for me, no matter how different it was. A lot of the cultural differences I faced occurred when I was working in the hospital, so I was exposed to the difficulty of overcoming the barrier. This ties into the difficulty that you discuss between the native and non-native people in the Arctic. I think that this hysteria should be regarded as a CBS. Although we may not see it as an illness from our cultural perspective, the people that actually live there experience this illness. The barrier between their and outside cultures (including communication) show the difficulty in dealing with this illness.

Leave a Reply