Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 256–276 | Cite as

Blood, Sweat, and/or Tears: Comparing Nervios Symptom Descriptions in Honduras

  • Max J. SteinEmail author
Original Paper


With the aim of advancing the cross-cultural investigation of the folk illness nervios, I conducted a dual-sited comparative study of symptom descriptions among two diverse research settings in Honduras. Baer et al. (Cult Med Psychiatry 27(3):315–337, 2003) used cultural consensus modeling (CCM) to confirm a core description of nervios among four Latino groups in the US, Mexico, and Guatemala, but observed that overall agreement and average competence in a shared illness model decreased along a gradient from presumably more-to-less economically developed sites. This has left unresolved whether such variation extends to other Latin American regions. This paper is an exploratory analysis of inter- and intracultural variation in nervios symptom descriptions by 50 Hondurans from the market town of Copán Ruinas (n = 25) and city of San Pedro Sula (n = 25). I performed CCM using a combination of free-listing, pile-sorting, and rating activities to establish if respondents across sites share a single model of nervios. I found consensus for the San Pedro Sula subsample, but not for Copán Ruinas or for the overall sample. Results suggest nervios is constitutive of differing forms of distress ranging from chronic illness to acute suffering, as well as anger- and panic-based manifestations that overlap with biomedical ideas about depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. This variation derives in part from demographic factors such as age, gender, and residence, but may also result from ethnic and regional diversity among subsamples. However, consensus only being present among San Pedro Sula respondents suggests their greater awareness of cultural distinctions between biomedical and folk medical knowledge, which is likely due to their exposure to manifold health frameworks in those settings.


Nervios Cultural syndromes Idioms of distress Honduras Cultural consensus modeling 



Many thanks to Kathy Oths, Bill Dressler, Lesley Jo Weaver, Bonnie Kaiser, and Alexandre Tokovinine for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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