Relevance of culture-bound syndromes in the 21st century

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Culture-bound syndromes were first described over 60 years ago. The underlying premise was that certain psychiatric syndromes are confined to specific cultures. There is no doubt that cultures influence how symptoms are perceived, explained and from where help is sought. Cultures determine what idioms of distress are employed to express distress. Rapid globalization and industrialization have made the world a smaller place and cultures are being more influenced by other cultures. This has led to social and economic changes in parts of the world where such syndromes were seen more frequently. In this review we illustrate these changes using the example of dhat syndrome (semen-loss anxiety). The number of syndromes in the DSM-5 has been reduced, acknowledging that these syndromes may be changing their presentations. Clinicians need to be aware of social and economic changes that may affect presentation of various psychiatric syndromes.

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