The British Journal of Psychiatry
"Wind illness' or somatic depression? A case study in psychiatric anthropology.
M Eisenbruch


A 46-year-old mother with a history of chronic headaches and other symptoms, and a clinical diagnosis (in Western terms) of depression, ascribed her condition to non-observance of Chinese postpartum ritual. The characteristic features of "wind illness' are described. Western medicine proved useless but acupuncture was beneficial. The case underlines the importance of understanding the patient's own view of his/her illness and its causes in arriving at a correct diagnosis and intervening effectively: this is particularly true when the gap between the doctor's and the patient's cultures is wide. The value of the distinction between the disease (the pathological process, which may be universal) and an episode of illness (the personal and cultural construction of disease) is emphasized.