Culture-Bound Syndromes: Susto

Susto, also known as “soul loss,” is a prominent feature of many cultures, including the Latin American and other Spanish-speaking communities of the United States. It is considered a folk illness with extreme psychological overtones, also characterized as “fright sickness.” Millions of people believe that frightening incidents such as witnessing a death, having an accidental fall or scare, losing something valuable, or being attacked or deserted by someone close can lead to susto. These incidents tend to have a common thread of helplessness and the inability to remove the cause of the fear. The biological responses that normally prepare the body for action against fear are absent, partially as a result of social norms or cultural inhibitions. The frightening event leads the soul to ...

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