5 Undiagnosed American Culture Bound Syndromes

    January 18, 2013 at 4:30 am

    According to the DSM-IV, a culture bound syndrome is an illness “very often influenced by local cultural factors” and is often referred to as a “folk illness.” But the DSM-IV only lists 25 worldwide; here are five undiagnosed American culture bound syndromes: 

    Bieber Fever


    I am sorry to ever have to write down the words “Bieber Fever,” but it’s a real and terrible problem we have with celebrities in general, not just riot-inspiring Justin Bieber. Bieber’s fans get tattoos of his face, plot his murder when he doesn’t return their letters, make public death threats directed at girls who get their photos taken with him, and there are even rumors that fans tried to eat his vomit after he became sick onstage.

    Plenty of other celebrities have to deal with crazed sometimes violent stalkers, but as if following around a complete stranger to a criminal extreme wasn’t enough, it gets even worse. Worse to the point we are calling this an undiagnosed American culture-bound syndrome.

    We love celebrities enough to kill for them and watch them kill, or at least pretend to turn a blind eye. Basketball star Kobe Bryant is most likely a rapist, football star Michael Vick is a convicted animal torturer, and football star Ray Lewis is a murderer. What do these three guys have in common? Their crimes were brushed off and forgotten so they could continue playing sports and living celebrity lifestyles.

    Every detail of a celebrity’s life is documented for us to drool over. Michele Obama’s nail polish color makes headlines, as does pictures of a television star filling her car with gas. Paparazzi literally risk their lives for photographs.

    Besides worshiping celebrities like they’re Jesus, Americans are also constantly searching for the next “big thing.” It turns out that you don’t have to actually do anything or possess any type of talent to reach celebrity status; we just want someone mildly entertaining to fawn over to an unreasonable degree. This little problem has a name slightly more tolerable than “Bieber Fever”: “Celebrity Worship Syndrome.”


    Going Postal

    going postal

    Going Postal was a term coined by the St. Petersburg Times in 1993, in an article which discussed the number of violent outbursts that had taken place at the post office between 1983-1993. During 11 episodes of “going postal,” during which a disgruntled employee would come to work with a gun and opened fire, 35 people had died. The St. Petersburg Times noted that “USPS does not approve of the term ‘going postal.'”

    It’s defined as “becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a post office or other workplace environment.”

    In the past 50 years, there have been 25 mass shootings worldwide. 15 have taken place in America. Good enough for us to call this an undiagnosed American culture bound syndrome.


    Bro-ing Out, Bro


    Bro. America is the only country that draws its superheroes as steroid junkies with impossibly rippling muscles tearing their uniforms open at the breast. We think GTL is a reasonable thing to say when describing one’s daily regime. We go to the gym, chug protein shakes, go back to the gym, tan, return to the gym one last time before it closes, and leave feeling unsatisfied. Looking like a DIY Hulk experiment gone wrong isn’t enough to deter the delusion that our muscles are still too small.

    Although this does have a name (Muscle Dysmorphia), Americans have done a great job making this an undiagnosed American culture bound syndrome. And by ‘Americans’ I mean ‘Guidos;’ Guidos and others participating in the Guido-lifestyle have become rabidly obsessed with growing their muscles.


    Plastic Surgery

    plastic surgery

    The USA is actually number six on the list of countries that get the most plastic surgery, but it seems that other countries are obsessed with cosmetic surgeries in a different way. Liposuction in Colombia. Breast implants in Brazil. Liposuction in Italy. Penis enlargement in Greece. Nose jobs and eyelid surgery in South Korea. All of the above and more in America.

    Besides scrutinizing many of our precious celebrities who are obsessed with getting more and more ghoulish procedures done to their aging bodies, we love to marvel at the everyday creatures who engage in this undiagnosed American culture-bound syndrome.

    It’s like a never-ending episode of “Ahh! Real Monsters.” Some girl spends her life savings on plastic surgery. Lists upon lists picture the “biggest plastic surgery addicts.” Even Louis Theroux got in on the action, making a documentary called Under the Knife in which he examines our obsession and even gets liposuction himself.


    Obsessed with Obsession


    We love to watch shows that exploit the misery of others, such as Hoarders, My Strange Addiction, Intervention. More subtle are shows that exploit our own obsessions, like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Bridezillas, Say Yes to the Dress, that show about making really fancy cakes, and whatever else encourages us to be “better people” by buying more useless shit they don’t need and can’t afford. We’re obsessed with being obsessed, it’s an undiagnosed American culture-bound syndrome

    The show “My Strange Addiction” proves that we love people who seem to have an uncontrollable urge to do something they shouldn’t, even when that need is completely falsified or even quite normal when the ‘victim’ isn’t surrounded by cameras; this show in particular featured a girl who was “obsessed with taxidermy,” which is actually just a normal job for many Americans. Clearly a promotional stunt (the girl on the show charges a hefty fee to teach taxidermy lessons in NYC), people continue to watch this travesty even though it’s devoid of imagination and reality. Addicted to growing toenails? We just want to watch someone who is “out of control,” even if they’re clearly just pretending.

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