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Culture-Bound Syndromes: Amok

The West was first introduced to amok through the journals of Captain Cook, although the history of the disorder dates back much further as a Hindu war tactic. Amok is a Malaysian term that means “to engage furiously in battle.” Amok occurs only in males. The disorder is usually precipitated by an event such as the loss of a companion, the loss of economic or social prestige, or a perceived or actual insult. A period of brooding follows, after which the person commits apparently purposeless homicidal attacks on individuals in close proximity until he is restrained, killed, or exhausted. Following the rampage, the person has complete amnesia of the events. Amok is qualitatively different from other forms of homicide in that a larger number of ...

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