Nigerian Journal of Psychiatry

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Editorial: Brain Fag Syndrome: New Wine in Old Bottles or Old Wine in New Bottles?

O Ayonrinde


Brain Fag Syndrome has been described as a culture bound syndrome associated with mental exertion and study in West Africans. Modern psychiatric and social science literature over the last half century describe the emanation of the term
“brain fag” as well as the syndrome in Nigeria. Characterised by somatic, affective, anxiety and cognitive features, the nosological validity of brain fag (that is, “Brain Fag Africana”)
as a culture bound syndrome is however questionable. An etymological exploration identified “Brain Fag” as actually a well-established phrase in 19th century Britain.
Furthermore, “Brain Fag Britannica” presented with similar clinical features and was associated with “overstudy” and nervous exhaustion in “brainworkers”.
It is concluded that the term “brain fag” does not emanate from West Africa but had been established in Britain 150 years earlier. In addition, the symptom cluster is not culture
bound or unique to any region of the world.

Nigerian Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 6 (2) 2008: pp. 47-50
AJOL African Journals Online