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20 Pages

Nerves, Worriation, and Black Women: A Community Study in the American South

Anthropological investigations of popular, folk, and ethnomedical illness have tended recently to interpret the sufferer's experience as "idioms of distress" (Parsons, 1984). The major assumption of the approach is that illness means something besides immediate physical disorder, and communicates messages about distress in psychological, social, and cultural spheres. Thus, illness serves as a repository of condensed meanings that individuals can exploit in order to relay messages about their experiences and situations. Because of the culturally determined basis for such meanings, studies in this genre frequently demonstrate the miscommunication that results when a patient suffering from

an ethnomedical syndrome seeks treatment and hence tries to convey the experience to a clinician who holds another culturally determined (biomedical) set of meanings for the complaint. The implication is that the meaning of ethnomedical complaints and syndromes is mutually comprehended by patients and their affiliates within community settings.