Culture-bound Syndromes

Lisa N. Richey, Akshay Krieg, Vani Rao, M.D.


  • The defining features of a culture-bound syndrome (CBS) are its prevalence within a specific ethno-cultural group and that it is a distressing deviance from the usual behavior, cognitions, or affect of that group.
  • Though broadly described as “syndromes”, this is not an accurate description of all culture-bound entities. Some are indeed a syndromal clustering of symptoms, however others are more accurately defined as local explanatory models of illness or an illness label for diverse misfortunes.
  • Synonyms for CBS: folk illness, idiom for distress, culture-specific disorder, cultural concept of distress

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Last updated: December 8, 2019