I looked for an article with more information about susto, and I found one that was really helpful. In the study, medical practitioners gathered data from hispanic primary care patients in a South Texas clinic. They gathered data through a cross-sectional survey that was presented orally. Patients were questioned about many hispanic culture-bound syndrome and were asked whether they knew of them or had experienced one of these syndromes themselves. The culture-bound syndromes they were asked about included empacho, nervios, mal de ojo, ataques de nervios, and of course susto. Seventy-seven percent knew of these syndromes and forty-two percent claimed to have experienced one of them. It was found that patients with an education higher than high school reported less cases of culture-bound syndromes.
Susto, specifically, is an illness brought on by a traumatic or frightening event. It is characterized biologically and emotionally by anxiety, lack of attention, loss of appetite, and withdrawal. Susto has been found to be linked to physical diseases such as hypoglycemia, diabetes, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and bi-polar disorder. Emotionally it is sometimes understood as a form of grief. Culturally it is believed that susto involves scaring the “soul” out of a person, as a reason for why they are so despondent.
In hispanic culture susto is remedied often times by the patient being physically healed and sometimes by them regaining their “essence” after a period of time. Since susto is associated with grief of other psychological illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder, it is sometimes treated with counseling. For susto with more obvious biological concomitant conditions, like diabetes or hypoglycemia, treatment in a clinic proves helpful. Overall, the study gave valuable insight to how culture-bound syndromes understood from a clinical perspective, and how they are perceived by a demographic.
Bayles P and Katerndahl D. Culture-bound Syndromes in Hispanic Primary Care Patients. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, vol 39(1) 15-31, 2009