Culture-Bound Syndromes: Shenjing Shuairuo

Shenjing shuairuo is defined by the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition (CCMD-3), as a neurotic disorder associated with physical or mental fatigue, irritability, excitability, headaches or other pains, and sleep disturbances. Secondary symptoms include dizziness, concentration and memory difficulties, gastrointestinal problems, and sexual dysfunction.

Origins of Shenjing Shuairuo

Loosely translated as “weakness of nerves,” shenjing shuairuo is often described as a Chinese culture-bound syndrome. However, it has roots in the Western disease construct of neurasthenia, which was introduced into China in the 1920s. The concepts of shen (spirit) and jing (channels that carry vital energy and blood) were combined into a single term, shenjing, meaning “nerve” or “nervous system.” When shenjing becomes shuai (degenerate) and ruo (weak), a variety of symptoms may develop. However, a ...

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