Culture-Bound Syndromes: Shin-Byung

Shin-byung is a culture-bound syndrome prevalent among Korean women. The initial stages of the syndrome involve anxiety and somatic complaints such as weakness, dizziness, fear, loss of appetite, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems. These symptoms are followed by dissociative states in which the individual is believed to be possessed by ancestral spirits. Shin-byung is also referred to as the “divine illness” and literally means spirit (shin) possession (byung).

According to traditional Korean folklore, shinbyung is a shamanic initiatory process. While suffering from anxiety or somatic problems, individuals with shin-byung frequently report experiencing a ki (energy or spirit) enter the body. This is later identified as a shin, or ancestral god, which is believed to be the cause of the shin-byung symptoms. To alleviate symptoms, the individual must ...

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