Does "Susto" Really Exist? Indigenous Knowledge and Fright Disorders Among Q'eqchi' Maya in Belize

This article questions if "susto" as understood in cultural psychiatric terms, especially in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM), is in fact a single "cultural concept of distress." There is extensive cross-cultural and intracultural variability regarding fright-related disorders in the ethnographic literature. What is often labeled "susto" may be in reality a variety of distinct disorders, or lacking in the two signature components found in the cultural psychiatric literature: the existence of a "fright," and subsequent soul loss. There has been significant polysemic and geographical drift in the idiom label, the result of colonialism in Mesoamerica, which has overlayed but not necessarily supplanted local knowledge. Using data from fifteen years of research with Q'eqchi' (Maya) healers and their patients, we demonstrate how important variability in signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of fright-related disorders renders any simple declaration that this is a singular "susto" problematic. We argue for a careful consideration of the knowledge of Indigenous medical specialists charged with treating fright-related disorders and against the inclination to view variability as insignificant. Such consideration suggests that Indigenous forms of fright-related disorder are not susto as presented commonly in the DSM and cultural psychiatric literature.PMID:35243566 | DOI:10.1007/s11013-022-09777-2
Source: Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry - Category: Psychiatry Authors: Source Type: research