Ataques de nervios: Culturally bound and distinct from panic attacks?

Meghan E. Keough, Kiara R. Timpano, Norman B. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000) has emphasized the importance of understanding psychopathology within a cultural framework by including culture-bound syndromes within its appendices. These syndromes are proposed to be bound to certain cultures and distinct from other psychological disorders. Included among the syndromes are ataques de nervios (ADN), which are reported to be bound to the Hispanic culture and closely resemble panic attacks. However, the cultural distinctiveness and phenomenology of ADN has not been adequately investigated. Method: The current study employed an ethnically diverse study sample (N = 342) of undergraduates. Participants completed a number of measures that assessed acculturation, syndrome and anxiety risk factors. Results: In contrast to the DSM-IVs conceptualization of ADN, the rate of ADN did not significantly vary across the three main groups (African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic participants) nor did it vary based on acculturation. More consistent with the DSM-IV, the symptom comparisons indicated some differentiation between ADN and panic attacks. Conclusions: The present report provides data indicating that ADNs, as described by the DSM-IV, are not unique to the Hispanic culture and are experienced by non-Hispanic individuals at similar rates to Hispanic-endorsement. The findings are consistent with the DSM-IV assertion that ADNs and PAs are distinct syndromes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalDepression and anxiety
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Ataques de nervios
  • Culture-bound syndrome
  • Panic attacks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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