Grisi Siknis in the Miskito people

This article discusses the Grisi Siknis disease that is affecting the Miskito people, many of which are lined along the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. The article states these people are found in other places however and that Miskito describes a culture more than a particular race. The article written is from a researcher whom has visited the area and conducted many interviews with those of the Miskito culture. It finally tries to draw a conclusion as to why the disease may have taken those affected and what things can be done to help those inflicted.

The dimensions of this illness are hard to grasp because those who experience it all seem to reach slightly different with a few overall things that appear common. The disease the strikes the people seems to mainly affect women in their mid to late teens but can also inflict men of the same age. The people all seem to relate the start as a sexual encounter with the devil. They lose consciousness and report several other individual symptoms which often times follows up with a period of violent behavior. This disease also appears to be highly contagious and spread around a community lasting for roughly a year. From a cultural standpoint those affected are seen to have a spiritual imbalance and so they were taken upon by the devil. These people are viewed as sick in the way we would view a typical illness but are cured with spiritual practices as well as herbal medicine.

Western medicine has not yet been able to explain this illness nor has it found a cure for those affected. People in cultures such as America view this as a mental disorder brought on by stress or fatigue and is similar to other psychiatric episodes that can occur. Miskito people believe in Herbal medicines and use many types of plants to cure people for various types of sickness. It appears that these herbal practices are often times able to cure those affected but it is not always possible. This herbal practice however, is the only thing to have shown some positive results in treating those afflicted with the illness.


Dennis, Philip A. “Grisi siknis in Miskito culture.” In The Culture-Bound Syndromes, pp. 289-306. Springer Netherlands, 1985.


This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Vu Ho says:

    In my definition of culture is a set of belief and behavior of a population. I think that certain illness should be called as culture bound syndrome because it is deeply related to culture. Within each population may have a belief that is different from another therefore different culture. Then if there is an illness that are only present in certain culture, why not separate and refer a culture bound syndrome? The advantage to refer certain syndrome is that I believe that some illness are yet to be researched and needed to be recorded for more information. Until they have assured to know more about the about the illness, they can later be categorized along with illness that are not culture bound. For many culture bound syndrome many are known to question why some illness is are only with a certain culture.
    The weakness of categorizing certain illness as a culture bound illness is that some time I feel skeptical of the cause. Though in the modern western medicine do not believe in spirits, there are cultures believe that spirits are the cause (spirits are causes of many CBS). And the one who are possess by spirit are to behave differently according to different culture. And the person who are to be possess would uncontrollably behave strangely even if it is unethical. The behavior though strange are accepted for that certain culture.

    So from my perspective of Grisi Siknis, are they finding a reason or excuse of spirit possession to behave a certain way? Could it be contagious because of crowd mentality? Yet it seems that the only treatment are herbal medicine and not yet know to know why there are syndrome such as Grisi Siknis to develop from the biological perspective. I do not know a lot about Grisi Siknis therefore it is a good idea to categorize as Culture bound syndrome and not dismiss it entirely.

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