Brain Fag in Africa

Brain Fag Syndrome is a Culture Bound Syndrome that was defined in 1994 in the DSM-IV, and is seen among the African culture. Brain Fag symptoms include somatic complaints, cognitive impairments, sleep related complaints, and other somatic impairments. The somatic complaints consist of pains or aches in the neck area; the cognitive impairments include not being able to comprehend written or spoken words; the sleep related complaints have to do with fatigue and tiredness even after obtaining enough sleep; and the other somatic impairments have to do with blurred vision (1). Brain Fag Syndrome is said to be associated with depression and has relations with stress and anxiety. In determining caseness for Brain Fag Syndrome, both the discomforting sensations in the neck area and difficulty studying must occur (1). There are a number of “risk factors” for Brain Fag Syndrome that were seen in the study that I examined. These include gender, cultural orientation, socioeconomic status, and neuroticism. It is thought that the syndrome is not directly related to genetic factors, intelligence, parental literacy, study habits or family responsibilities. It is suggested, rather, that the syndrome is related to European learning styles being superimposed on the African personality (2).  I find this interesting to think about, and it is what makes most sense to me. The thought of becoming accustomed to a whole new culture – totally unlike the one I am familiar with – sort of gives me a headache to think about now.

Evaluation of Brain Fag Syndrome is done from a number of various perspectives. These include perspectives that look at the different risk factors such as gender, socioeconomic status, and others. For example, the study that tested for correlation between neuroticism and Brain Fag Syndrome used a measurement tool to look at levels of neurotic habits and showed that neuroticism is high among BFS patients (1). BFS is treated with the drug lorazepam, as well as other antidepressants.

1. BA Ola, “Brain Fag Syndrome – a myth or reality,” Afr J Psychiatry 12 (2009): 135-143, accessed July 22, 2013.

2. Raymond Prince, “The ‘Brain Fag’ Syndrome in Nigerian Students,” British Journal of Psychiatry 106 (1960): 559-570, accessed July 28, 2010, doi:10.1086/599247.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. pucket10 says:

    I believe the word culture represents a collective representation of how individuals interact, express, socialize, and react to each other in a particular region that demonstrates a complex form of social and intimate relationships. Through the materials in this week, it is shown that cultures have unique and various ways they express themselves which is also connected to development of the area as well as social and political structures confining certain areas. I feel that this illness should be regarded as CBS as it appears that the individuals of this region have been removed from their culture and forced into adapting to a completely different culture. This illness appears as though it begins with benign symptoms such as restlessness that can develop into acute symptoms that can completely hinder these people from having comfortable, or even sane lifestyles. The symptoms are connected to physical and psychological problems that could ultimately have detrimental effects to a persons life, which involves many of the Africans in this study. I believe that this would then be considered a cultural bound syndrome as it is affecting many people of this African culture and creating psychological strain as well as physical stress.

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