Panic attacks and possession by djinns: lessons from ethnopsychiatry
Nicola Luigi Bragazzi,1 Giovanni Del Puente2
1School of Public Health, Department of Health Sciences, 2Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, Section of Psychiatry, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
Abstract: This clinical case report shows how important it is for a psychiatrist to have a knowledge of the cultural and religious context of the patient, in order to understand fully his or her complaints. Culture and religion, in fact, are not neutral, but convey symbols, meanings, and myths that should be properly explored to shed light on the patient’s inner world. Patient D was a 19-year-old Muslim Italo-Tunisian girl, who consulted a psychiatrist for anxiety and panic attacks, and reported being possessed by djinns (ie, “evil creatures”, as described in the Qur’an). A culturally informed interview was carried out, together with administration of psychometric scales, including the Symptom Checklist-90 Revised and Psychological Measure of Islamic Religiousness. Based on her scores and the results of this multidimensional assessment, patient D was treated with transcultural psychotherapy and fluoxetine. After a year of follow-up, she reported no further episodes of panic disorder. For proper assessment and treatment, a combined anthropological, sociological, and psychopathological approach was necessary.
Keywords: Islam, Qur’an, djinns, panic attack disorder, ethnopsychiatry
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