The “culture-bound syndrome” that I decided to discuss is Ghost Sickness among Native Americans. This sickness is generally attributed to the ghosts of the deceased or to witchcraft. The people who suffer from this disease have symptoms of nightmares, a feeling of terror, and weakness. Also, dizziness and fainting can occur. Studies show that often the people who suffer from this disease are found to be very preoccupied with death or a deceased loved one. It can be very psychological, leading to depression, anxiety, and even hallucinations.
The disease is most likely caused by Native American belief that life is more cyclical than how Americans view it. They also believe that the the spirits and ghosts of the deceased may try to take someone with them. From a biological standpoint, this fear that is instilled in the people of these Native American tribes could cause anxiety when a loved one passes. Along with the grief that comes along with a death, anxiety can have many negative effects on the body, including symptoms that are described along with the disease. To many Western doctors, the cause and symptoms of the disease would most likely lead them to diagnose a sufferer of the disease with purely psychological trauma from the grief. Medications for anxiety would most likely be prescribed.
However, the Native Americans view this illness as a more spiritual issue. They treat the disease within the tribes, by performing elaborate rituals with a large family group in order to defend against the spirits of the deceased. They believe that the thoughts of the deceased and the spirits are consuming the sufferer and causing the symptoms so they must rid the person of the thoughts.
The treatment of the disease in our culture compared to Native American culture shows a huge contrast in the understanding and opinion on psychological disorders.
Hall, Lena. “Conceptions of Mental Illness: Cultural Perspectives and Treatment Implications.” Journal of Multidisciplinary Scholarship 1.1 (2014): n. pag. Conceptions of Mental Illness: Cultural Perspectives and Treatment Implications. Web. 18 July 2014.
Encyclopedia of Psychology (2000). Culture-Bound Disorders. (Vol. 2). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press Inc.