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December 2022

Med Anthropol. 1993 Apr; 15(2): 157-70.

Ataques de nervios in Puerto Rico: culture-bound syndrome or popular illness?

Guarnaccia PJ.

Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903.

Ataque de nervious is a popular illness category among Puerto Ricans and other Latinos written about in anthropological and psychiatric literature for over thirty years. This paper discusses the issue of categorizing ataque de nervios as a "culture-bound syndrome" using data from the first community-based study of this phenomena using epidemiological methods. The paper summarizes the social and psychological correlates of ataques de nervios and provides a preliminary overview of the situations which provoke ataques and the symptoms people experience. The paper critically examines the use of the "culture-bound syndrome" framework analyzing ataques de nervios and suggests that the term "popular illness" is a more effective label for categorizing this syndrome.

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