n African Journal of Psychiatry - Brain Fag Syndrome - a myth or a reality : review article




The Brain Fag Syndrome (BFS) is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a culture bound syndrome. BFS is a tetrad of somatic complaints; cognitive impairments; sleep related complaints; and other somatic impairments. Prince first described this psychiatric illness associated with study among African students in 1960. There have been questions relating to the nosological status of the syndrome as to whether : BFS is an objective or subjective phenomenon; it is one phenomenon or a variant of other known disorders; it is a mental illness? These three questions pose challenges to the culture bound / depressive or anxiety equivalent approach to the condition. The scope of this paper is the scope of BFS history from its first reference in the psychological medicine to the most contemporary descriptions in transcultural psychiatry. The conceptual history of BFS is divided into four major perspectives : Traditional medicine, Psychoanalysis, Biopsychological and Transcultural psychiatry. This helps to outline some of the key issues, helps to clarify its nosological status, its present status and helps to set the stage for the future progress. From its conceptual history, BFS as a phenomenon, with its distinct presentations, is subjectively real and is best classified with the framework of psychiatry, psychology and or sociology. The existence of BFS is evidenced by case as well as epidemiological reports of the condition in different locations. However, its course, response to treatment and outcome deserve more attention than has been given.


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