Zar Syndrome

The Zar Syndrome is a so-called culture bound syndrome mostly found in Ethiopian, Somalian and other Middle Eastern and North African societies. The Zar Syndrome is psychiatric in nature and is closely related to notions of ‘spiritual possession’.

The belief in possession by Zar spirits is one of the most common possession phenomena. Possession by Zar is expressed by a wide range of behaviors, such as involuntary movements, mutism and incomprehensible language. Other symptoms may include dissociative episodes with laughing, shouting, hitting the head against a wall, singing, or weeping. Such behavior can be misinterpreted as representing symptoms of neuralgic or psychiatric disorders[1].
The Zar Syndrome apparently originated central Ethiopia during the 18th century, later spreading throughout East and North Africa. Some reports think the syndrome may be a psychological reaction to western colonialism.

[1] Grisaru et al: Possession by the 'Zar' among Ethiopian immigrants to Israel: psychopathology or culture-bound syndrome? in Psychopathology - 1997

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