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September 2022

West J Med. 1992 Sep; 157(3): 295-300.

Dysphoria and somatization in Iranian culture.

Pliskin KL.

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco 94143.

Iranians express dysphoria through an undifferentiated term called narahati, meaning depressed, ill at ease, nervous, inconvenienced, or anxious. People try masking this emotion or express it in specific ways nonverbally, such as sulking or not eating. Two other dysphoric affects, sadness and anger, are not masked. Because of the social conception of persons being emotionally sensitive, the expression of narahati is guarded: expressing it not only could show that one is socially vulnerable, it could also make another sensitive empathic person narahat. The body is also sensitive, but to the physical world. Physical health is maintained by balancing a diet of "hot" and "cold" foods and avoiding exposure to cold and moisture. With the social and cultural problems brought on by revolution, war, immigration, and accommodation to a new society, Iranian refugees experience changes in family, role, status, finances, language, and other sociocultural ways of being that cause them to feel narahat and to express it verbally, nonverbally, or through somatization. Understanding Iranian conceptions of emotional and physical sensitivity will help clinicians in treating Iranian patients.

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