Encyclopedia of Immigrant Health

2012 Edition
| Editors: Sana Loue, Martha Sajatovic


  • Kristi Ninnemann
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5659-0_40

Amok, often referred to as a Malaysian culture-bound or culture-related syndrome, is characterized by an unrestrained, sudden episode of extreme, often homicidal, violence. Although prodromal symptoms of amok, such as intense brooding, increased anxiety and agitation, or upset over a perceived criticism or insult have been reported, the majority of amok acts are largely indiscriminate, neither premeditated nor provoked. The extreme violence perpetrated during an episode of amok is further thought to be unconscious to the individual “going amok,” as the perpetrator, or pengamok, is said to be in a dissociative state or amnesia. Due to the excessive frenzied nature of the pengamok, outside force is generally required to end an amok episode. Such confrontation and force may result in the death or suicide of the pengamok. If the pengamok survives, the destructive and murderous outburst is characteristically followed by total amnesia and intense fatigue.

Amokis classified as a...

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Suggested Readings

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition text revision (DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: APA.Google Scholar
  2. Haque, A. (2008). Culture-bound syndromes and healing practices in Malaysia. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 11(7), 685–696.Google Scholar
  3. Kon, Y. (1994). Amok. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 165, 685–689.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Trujillo, M. (2008). Multicultural aspects of mental health. Primary Psychiatry, 15(4), 65–71, 77–84.Google Scholar
  5. Tseng, W.-S. (2006). From peculiar psychiatric disorders through culture-bound syndromes to culture-related specific syndromes. Transcultural Psychiatry, 43(4), 554–576.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. World Health Organization. (2003). The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders: Diagnostic criteria for research. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristi Ninnemann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA