Crazy In Our Own Ways: Mental Illness Around The World

Mary Montserrat-Howlett writes on Highest Five:

Killing rampages, fear that genitals are retracting, spirits taking over the body … here are some notable cultural illnesses that can only be understood, “understanding the ideas, habits and predispositions of the mind that is its host”.

Amok (South Asia): Amok or running amok is derived from the Malay/Indonesian word amuk, meaning mad with rage. It quite literally is a mad fit of rage where a person who hasn’t shown any previous signs of anger or inclination to violence will suddenly switch into homicidal maniac mode and attempt to kill or seriously injure anyone around them.

Their fit will be followed by a bout of amnesia wherein the person will return to their premorbid state (i.e. the state before they went haywire) with no recollection of the incident. This violent outburst is prevalent almost exclusively among males. Episodes of this kind normally end with the attacker being killed by bystanders, or committing suicide. Many researchers theorize that amok is closely related to male honor. Some element of deep shame has prevented them from living an honourable life and running amok is a way of escaping the world (as the perpetrator usually gets killed) as well as re-establishing one’s reputation as a man to be feared and respected.

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