Encyclopedia of Immigrant Health

2012 Edition
| Editors: Sana Loue, Martha Sajatovic

Ataque de Nervios

  • Daniel S. Schechter
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5659-0_58

The Spanish term ataques de nervios, translated as “attacks of nerves” and as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM) of 1994 glossary of culture-bound syndromes, refers to an “idiom of distress” found among many Latin American and Latin Mediterranean groups. The term “idiom of distress” describes the expression of a range of symptoms, which despite their variable presentation (see below), communicate a message whose meaning is shared within a given culture. Thus, an “ataque de nervios,” which can appear as a quiet panic attack, a crying spell or as a violent pseudoseizure, above all, is labeled as such by the affected individual and clearly recognized by other members of that individual’s culture as expressing acute discomfort, anguish, and/or actual or perceived impairment in individual or interpersonal functioning necessitating assistance to that individual.

Ataque de nervios first appeared in the North American psychiatric...

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Suggested Readings

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorders (4th ed.). Washington DC: Author.Google Scholar
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  3. Guarnaccia, P. J., Lewis-Fernández, R., Pincay, I. M., Shrout, P., Guo, J., Torres, M., et al. (2009). Ataque de nervios as a marker of social and psychiatric vulnerability: Results from the NLAAS. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 10, 1–12.Google Scholar
  4. Hinton, D. E., Chong, R., Pollack, M. H., Barlow, D. H., & McNally, R. J. (2008). Ataque de nervios: Relationship to anxiety sensitivity and dissociation predisposition. Depression and Anxiety, 25, 489–495.PubMedGoogle Scholar
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  6. Salmán, E., Liebowitz, M. R., Guarnaccia, P. J., Jusino, C. M., Garfinkel, R., Street, L., et al. (1998). Types of ataques de nervios: The influence of coexisting psychiatric diagnosis. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 22, 231–244.Google Scholar
  7. Schechter, D. S. (2010). Multigenerational ataques de nervios in a Dominican-American family: A form of intergenerational transmission of violent trauma. In C. Worthman, P. Plotsky, D. S. Schechter, & C. Cummings (Eds.), Formative experiences: The interaction of parenting, culture, and developmental psychobiology (pp. 256–270). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
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  9. Scheper-Hughes, N., & Lock, M. (1990). Rituals and routines of discipline and dissent: Towards an anthropology of the communicative body. In T. Johnson & C. Sargent (Eds.), Medical anthropology: Contemporary theory and method (pp. 47–72). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar

Suggested Resources

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2010). Mental health: A guide for Latinos and their families. http://www.healthyminds.org/Document-Library/Brochure-Library/Mental-Health-A-Guide-for-Latinos-and-Their-Families.aspx?FT=.pdf (This web-based brochure contains a section on Ataques de nervios).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel S. Schechter
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland