Grisis siknis: symptoms and causes of this cultural syndrome

Cultural or culturally related syndromes are disorders that have been identified exclusively in a particular society. Some of the more well-known cultural syndromes are Koro, which occurs in Southeast Asia, and Amok, which is typical of Indonesia and the Pacific.

In this article we will talk about the causes and symptoms of Grisi siknis, a culture-related syndrome this happens between the misquitos, originally from Honduras and Nicaragua. We will also describe some similar disorders that occur in other cultures.

    What is Gris Siknis?

    The Siknis Gray is a cultural syndrome specific to the misquito society, An ethnic group from Central America. The name is probably derived from the English words “crazy disease”; in this case, it could be translated as “disease of madness”. It is also known as “Grisi munaia”, “Nil siknis” and “Chipil siknis”. This disorder was described by Philip A. Dennis in 1981.

    It mainly occurs in teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 18. Although Western psychology and psychiatry have attributed the onset of Grisi siknis episodes to emotional distress and stress, traditional Miskito explanations state that it is an experience of possession by evil spirits or wizards. .

    This esoteric account of the nature of the syndrome is fueled by the fact that Western medicine and other treatments do not appear to be effective in resolving the symptoms of Gray siknis. In contrast, herbal and traditional remedies for poor healers are effective in resolving symptoms, perhaps by suggestion and placebo effect.

    One of the most peculiar characteristics of gray siknis it is their contagious nature that causes epidemics. For example, in March 2009, epidemics of Grisi siknis were described, affecting many young people in the municipalities of Puerto Cabezas and Siuna, in Nicaragua. These outbreaks occurred shortly after Hurricane Felix, which wreaked havoc off the coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua.

    Symptoms of this disorder

    Episodes of Grisi siknis are preceded by physical and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, anger, irrational fear, headache, dizziness and nausea.

    The onset of the attack coincides with the loss of consciousness which causes the person to fall to the ground. He then begins to run, plunged into a state of dissociation and lack of control over behavior.

    During the Grisi siknis crisis, it is common for those affected to adopt aggressive behaviors against themselves or against invisible aggressors hallucination products; those who have suffered episodes claim to see spirits or demons coming to look for them, sometimes raping them or having sex with them.

    There is a great power of suggestion in this syndrome, partly because of the atmosphere of esotericism which occurs in the crises and which recalls the classic cases of Madness for Two. It is also common for people with Grisi siknis to say the names of the following people who are likely to have it, although they are not necessarily right. There are malicious stories that tell about supernatural events that occurred during episodes of this syndrome, as victims speaking in unfamiliar languages ​​or vomiting hair, spiders, or coins.

    The gray swan it can last for several months or even a year if left untreated. During this period, recurrent episodes with symptoms such as those described in the previous paragraphs usually occur.

      Causes and explanations

      According to the DSM-IV-TR manual, Siknis Gray is a psychological disorder due to stress, emotional shock and hopelessness; in this sense, this syndrome has been linked to dissociative leakage, as is the case with Amok syndrome, another well-known cultural disorder. However, grisi siknis has been little studied and its causes are therefore not entirely clear.

      The Miskitos attribute the Grisis siknis to a destabilization of the spirit world, caused by the appearance of epidemics or the action of dark wizards. These factors would lead to the possession of young girls by ghosts.

      As we have seen, a possible explanation for the particular fact that the Grisi siknis is entrusted is suggestion; thus, the appearance of this syndrome in several people at the same time could be influenced by contact with other cases of Grisi siknis. Seen in this way, the syndrome would have some similarities to the shared psychotic disorder, better known as Madness for Two.

      Similar cultural syndromes

      Symptoms of anxiety, physical discomfort, and loss of control are very common in many disorders, including those that are specific to certain cultures. As in Grisi siknis, in many cases these syndromes have traditionally been attributed to the possession of spirits.

      1. Amok o mata elap

      Alteration detected in Malaysian men, characterized by onset of a dissociative episode in which aggressive behavior occurs. It’s linked to psychosis. After the amok attack, the person no longer remembers the facts.

      There are other cultural syndromes with symptoms very similar to those of amok and Grisi siknis in different cultures, such as cockroach, berserk, disease control and iich’aa, identified respectively in Polynesia, in Scandinavia, Puerto Rico and the Indians. Navajo.

      2. Pibloktoq or arctic hysteria

      Publoktoq is present among the Inuit of Greenland. This is usually a dissociative episode of about 30 minutes that occurs after a period of restlessness, irritability or bad mood. The person behaves in an aggressive and uninhibited mannerFor example, you can take off all your clothes, shout obscene words, or eat feces.

      3. Windigo o witiko

      The Windigo is a North American mythological creature attributed to human and bestial characteristics. As a disorder, the Windigo it is linked to delusional experiences of possession who run with a compulsive desire to eat human flesh. Currently, the existence of this cultural syndrome is widely questioned as such.

      4. Nervous attack

      This name is given to episodes of loss of control with screaming, shouting, tremors and aggression that occur in some cultures of Latin America and the Mediterranean. It differs from anxiety attacks in that the symptoms occur spontaneously, without a trigger and without a feeling of fear.

      5. Crazy shot

      La bouffée Délirante (French: “bouffée Délirante”) it’s a type of psychotic epidemic which is characterized by restlessness, violence, confusion, and visual or auditory hallucinations. He is originally from Haiti and West Africa.

      6. Zar

      Dissociative episodes with uncontrolled screaming, screaming, laughing and chanting, as well as self-harm, attributed to experiences of spirit possession. In African countries where it has been identified, such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and Somalia, it is not considered a pathology.

      7. Disease of spirits

      In some Native American societies, a syndrome has been described consisting of intense concern for death and death, as well as various physical and psychological symptoms: anxiety, weakness, loss of appetite, dizziness, confusion, nightmares, hallucinations, etc.

      8. Hsieh-ping

      The hsieh-ping, a cultural syndrome detected in Taiwan, Is defined as a brief state of transit during which the person believes they are possessed by ancestral spirits trying to communicate with loved ones. Its symptoms include disorientation and hallucinations.

      9. Madness

      According to the psychiatric manual of the DSM-IV, the term “madness” is used in Latin America to denote a type of chronic psychosis who include symptoms such as interpersonal difficulties, agitation, hallucinations, inconsistency, impulsiveness and aggression.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association. DSM-IV Working Group. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, text review of the 4th edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
      • Barrett, B. (1997). Herbs and healing on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. American Botanical Council, 41: 35-48.
      • Dennis, PA (1981). Third part: Gray Siknis among the Miskito. Medical Anthropology, 5 (4): 445-505.

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