Baridi in Tanzania

Baridi is an illness in Tanzania referring to emotional coldness of the sick individual due to “disrespect and/or disobedience to their parents or neglect of close family member” (Juntunen, 2005).  Basically, it is caused by bad behavior as viewed by Tanzanian society in the Bena tribe, a subgroup of Bantu.  Other acts that can cause Baridi include physical closeness to family members of the opposite sex, using insulting language, or ignoring family duties.  The feelings of guilt and uncomfortability experienced after neglecting the social norms of their culture initially causes what they consider a mental condition.  Early symptoms include  weight loss, loss of energy, drowsiness, restlessness, and feeling cold.  Later they are affected by physical symptoms such as sexual disability and sometimes rheumatism-like symptoms.  Baridi is often associated with the loss of a job, failure, loss of property, and the lack of a marriage partner.

Baridi is typically treated by traditional healers in the Bena tribe.  If other traditional medicinal remedies and hospitalization cannot cure the patient or find another cause to the symptoms being experienced, then the traditional healers will give the patient directions to perform a ritual.  In order to diagnose a patient, the healer will interview the individual to detect what act may have caused the sickness.  The cause often involves lack of self control or breaking the harmony between family members.Treatment can involve things as simple as an apology or public confession to family members, but sometimes include taking herbal remedies or the preparation of a traditional feast and the presentation of traditional gifts.

Though some symptoms seen in Baridi are physical, ie. weight loss, lethargy, and rheumatism, the causes for the disease are most definitely tied to their cultural beliefs and the breaking of social norms.  In a different culture or society, for example American society, many of the acts that cause Baridi in the Bena tribe would be considered normal.

Juntunen, Anitta. 2005. “Baridi: A Culture-Bound Syndrome Among the Bena Peoples in Tanzania.” Journal of Transcultural Nursing. 16(1): 15-22. Accessed July 23. DOI: 10.1177/1043659604270960.

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