Frigophobia among the Chinese

Frigophobia is a culture bound sickness among the Chinese which is a condition in which affected individuals have an extreme fear of cold. This rare culture related condition leads to a morbid fear of death. Frigophobia is considered a psychiatric syndrome.  One of the articles i read about this syndrome was about a 61 year old Chinese man who had been hospitalized on and off for 25 years due to this condition. He felt his fear of cold originated from his past indiscretions, especially sexual indiscretions. Researchers suggested that this fear of cold is related to the ancient but still prevalent idea of the dual force (yin and yang) which permeate and regulate the cosmos of life. Though the cultural history of the disease is among Chinese people, another article i read mentioned this illness in a significant number of people in Sri Lanka. These patients did not state a reason for their fear but described the symptoms of the disease as similar to those of Frigophobia among the Chinese. They initially examined their extremities for cold sensations and then began the onset of fear. They covered themselves in layers of clothing and stayed near open fires in an effort to ward of the cold. The avoided cold foods and bathed only in the heat of the noonday sun. When the severity of the symptoms reached a peak, or when they felt death was imminent, Western medical aid was sought. The fear of dying is seen as the single most important aspect that drives these individuals to seek help. Before seeking medical attention the patients do not do much in the way of treatment. They usually attribute their ailing to some personal indiscretion as in the case of the 61 year old Chinese man. When their fear escalates to fear of death, they seek medical attention. Medical treatment is offered in the forms of  illness education primarily, reassurance, and desensitisation by exposure to cold stimuli, with short-term anxiolytic medication use when necessary.

Frigophobia: A case series from Sri Lanka. Perera, Dhara N.; Panduwawela, Sarath;Perera, Mahendra H.. Transcultural psychiatry 51.2 (April 2014):176-189

Frigophobia: A culture bound syndrome. revised by A.C Wu and M.H Miller. American Journal of social psychiatry 1. (1981)

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Nikki Silva says:

    Interesting discussion Delisa! I had not heard of Frigophobia before your post. It is good to know that individuals who suffer from this CBS do seek medical attention and treatment.

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