The culture-bound syndrome that I decided to discuss in this post is called Pibloktoq. Also known as hysteria, consists of a spectrum of irrational behaviors. This ranges from episodes of a person ripping and tear their clothing, screaming uncontrollably, shouting curses, breaking nearby items, eating excrement, or running out into the cold. 1 This syndrome is prevalent among Arctic indigenous populations. It can happen to anyone but doesn’t occur till they’re adults. There are all sorts of stressors associated with this syndrome that researchers have postulated. Culturally, researchers support the hypothesis that pibloktoq is a manifestation of stress and despair over culture clash and culture degradation.2 Individually, it may be that person is filled with anger and frustration. In the article it talks about how native groups raised their children to behave like savages. While biologically, it is postulated that there is lack of certain nutrients in their diets. One research found that vitamin C and D can be hard to obtain in harsh environments like the artic. Anthony Wallace, one of the primary researchers on pibloktoq, hypothesized that a calcium deficiency caused the symptoms of apparent temporary insanity in native populations in the Arctic.3 However, with all this vast research and hypotheses there is still a lot of speculation circulating about this syndrome. This is because of the lack of cultural understanding. Researchers are strongly taking in cultural implications when they can make the diagnosis. This becomes troublesome because it makes difficult to understand the illness. It is unusual behavior however for the indigenous people in the artic it is part of the norm. As for people outside, pibloktoq is very stigmatized. This should be a huge red flag to all researchers because it is an illness that is heavily prevalent. Instead of having or sharing opposing thoughts on pibloktoq, researchers should unify and view this illness holistically.
Higgs, Rachel D. “Pibloktoq-A study of a culture-bound syndrome in the circumpolar region.” The Macalester Review 1, no. 1 (2011): 3.