Ghost Sickness is a culture bound syndrome that occurs among Native American tribes, originating from the Navajo. People that are preoccupied and possessed by the deceased are considered to have Ghost Sickness. Its symptoms include general weakness, loss of appetite, feeling suffocated, having recurring nightmares, and an everlasting feeling of terror. It is believed that if the deceased did not get proper burial rights, their spirit would be doomed to remain on the living plane, staying to torture the living.
The biological features of this disease are mostly psychological. The afflicted person is at obsessed with death or a deceased person whom they believe is causing their affliction. They have nightmares and other sleep disturbances, anxiety, a sense of danger, hallucinations, and confusion. Other biological symptoms include weakness and fatigue, lowered appetite and other digestion problems, dizziness, fainting, and even loss of consciousness. In some cases, there is a great feeling of depression as well.
Native American culture has a world-view that is cyclical rather than a cause-and-effect worldview. What this means is that all events affect each other, regardless of when the event occurs; past, present, or even future. Considering this cultural world-view, ghost sickness can be better understood. By not practicing proper burial and mourning rituals, the deceased cannot be at peace in their new spiritual plane. Consequently, the deceased causes physical and mental problems for the living. Then, this person suffering from ghost sickness does not practice more rituals, subsequently causing the inability for the deceased to be at peace.
Individual aspects of the disease are incredibly important here. First, the sufferer is obsessed with death or a certain deceased person. This may be a person of kin who recently passed, a mate, or even a lost ancestor. It is said that many Native Americans who suffer from Ghost Sickness are actually suffering from a complicated grieving process. The sufferer begins to have nightmares and dreams, then later feel queasy and the physical and psychological symptoms set in. In some aspect this person must also be somewhat susceptible to depression as well. The person must also believe in the dead and their voices in order to be afflicted by Ghost Sickness.
The only known treatment for Ghost Sickness is rituals that are performed by the Navajo tribe members. The religious leaders will perform rituals to eliminate the all consuming thoughts of the dead. Other treatments may include anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medicines, but this only occurs if the patient is brought to a doctor in Western medicine.
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