Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nicaragua's Crazy Sickness

In 2008, there were 65 reported cases of Grisi Siknis, which translates from Miskito language to "crazy sickness" or "jungle madness." Those suffering it turn to local healers - people we would refer to as "mystics" and "witchdoctors" - because Western medicine has no idea how to treat it. Yes, "Grisi Siknis" is apparently a very real, medical malady.

The affliction dates back to the 1850s and originally only affected the Miskito. Recently, however, the illness has presented itself in those of Spanish descent. Also called Grisi Munaia and Nil Siknis, the Crazy Sickness is what Western medicine refers to as "culture-bound," meaning it is limited to those of a specific culture or region - in this case, the Miskito people.

Culture-bound illnesses are very real, though their treatment is specious, at best. While most Western doctors consider it unethical to provide the victims folk treatment, as they believe themselves to be deceiving the patient, it logically follows that culture-bound illnesses should be susceptible to culture-bound remedies. But now, it appears the affliction is spreading outside the cultural sphere which is believed to have created it, perhaps elevating it to an actual form of mental illness.

Furthermore, Grisi Siknis spreads in outbreaks. While culture-bound illnesses are known to be "contagious," Western psychology prefers to apply the term, "mass hysteria." Mass hysteria is also known as Collective Obsessional Behavior, which is far more apt. So far this year, there have been 46 reported cases. As a local doctor, and ardent researcher of the malaise, says, "If an attack is not contained quickly, it can spread throughout an entire community."

The most common symptoms are hallucinations in which the sufferer believes he is being attacked or sexually molested by The Devil of Christian mythology; severe anxiety, nausea, and dizziness; irrational fear and anger; and periods of frenzy during which the victim often runs away.

Western medicine and procedures seem to have no effect, but local mystics' rites and potions often cure the afflicted. Of course, if the Grisi Siknis is, in fact, societal in nature, then what else would cure it but culturally-bound procedures such as those provided by local witchdoctors?

Western science continues to scratch its collective ass head.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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