Culture–bound syndromes and the neglect of cultural factors in psychopathologies among Africans
One of the major problems in psychiatric practice worldwide is inability to reach a consensus as regards a globally acceptable classificatory system for the different psychopathologies. Consequently, apart from the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) that is expected to be universally applicable there are regional-based classificatory systems in some parts of the world. In Africa, a number of culture bound syndromes (CBS) have been described which have not been given international recognition. The possible consequences of this non-recognition are highlighted in this paper. Unfortunately there are serious constraints such as the relatively small number of psychiatrists on the continent, and inadequate funding for mental health research, which militate against producing an African classificatory system. Nevertheless, it is proposed that reports of African psychiatrists emanating from their research and clinical experience should be accorded adequate recognition in the WHO so as to assign these CBS their rightful placement in the International classificatory system.
Key Words: Culture-Bound Syndromes; African Psychiatry; Classification; Recognition.