Culture-bound syndromes in hispanic primary care patients

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22 Scopus citations


Introduction: We sought to document Hispanic primary care patients' knowledge and experience of five culture-bound syndromes (CBS), as well as the basic socio-cultural correlates of these disorders. Methods: A convenience sample of 100 adult Hispanic patients presenting in an urban South Texas primary care clinic was recruited to complete a brief cross-sectional survey, presented in an oral format. Interviews sought information concerning five culture-bound syndromes-susto, empacho, nervios, mal de ojo, and ataques de nervios. Additional demographic, socio-economic, and acculturation data was collected. Descriptive and bivariate statistics (chi square, Fisher's) were used to assess relationships among variables and experience with each CBS. A multivariate logistic analysis was conducted to determine the possible contributions of age, gender, acculturation, and education to the personal experience of a culture-bound syndrome. Results: Results indicate that 77% of respondents had knowledge of all five syndromes, with 42% reporting having personally experienced at least one CBS. Nervios was the most commonly suffered disorder, being reported by 30 respondents. This was followed, in declining order of prevalence, by susto, mal de ojo, empacho, and ataques de nervios. Multivariate logistic regression analysis found that higher education beyond high school was associated with a slightly decreased likelihood of reporting having suffered from any culture-bound syndrome. While co-occurrence among these disorders occurred, the patterns of predictors suggest that the co-occurrence is not a reflection of mislabeling of one common syndrome. Conclusion: Knowledge of and experience with culture-bound syndromes is common among Hispanic primary care patients in South Texas. Healthcare providers ought to consider discussing these illnesses in a non-judgmental manner with patients who present with symptoms that are consistent with these syndromes. Future studies, with larger sample sizes, are warranted to elucidate the nature of culture-bound disorders and their relationships with conventional diagnostic entities and treatment-seeking behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
JournalInternational journal of psychiatry in medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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