Amok

October 22, 2008

AMOK – adv. (in phrase: run amok) behave uncontrollably and disruptively.

I’m sure most of us have heard this one before, but I bet fewer of us know that Amok is the name of a psychological syndrome.  What is unique about Amok is that it is “culturally-bound,” meaning that the disorder only exists in certain cultural environments.  Amok has been observed principally in Malaysia, but also in Laos, the Phillippines, Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, and Puerto Rico.  The following is the description of Amok according to my Abnormal Psychology textbook:

“A disorder characterized by sudden, wild outbursts of violent aggression or homicidal behavior in which an afflicted person may kill or injure others.  This rage disorder is usually found in males who are rather withdrawn, quiet, brooding, and inoffensive prior to the onset of the disorder.  Episodes are often precipitated by a perceived slight or insult.  Several stages have been observed: Typically in the first stage the person the person becomes more withdrawn; then a period of brooding follows in which a loss of contact with reality is evident, ideas of persecution and anger predominate.  Finally, a phase of automatism or Amok occurs, in which the person jumps up, yells, grabs a knife, and stabs people or objects within reach.  Exhaustion and depression usually follow, with amnesia for the rage period.”

There is a company called Amok Edged Weapons Solutions that offers “responsible” training in knife combat.  Maybe they should try to tap the Malaysian market.

And for curiosity’s sake here’s a description of another culturally-bound psychological disorder that makes me laugh a little.  If you don’t like the word “penis” stop reading now!  It’s called Koro and it’s found in Southeast Asia and China (particularly Malaysia).  Those wacky Malaysians!

“Koro: A fear reaction or anxiety state in which a man fears that his penis will withdraw into his abdomen and he may die.  This reaction may appear after sexual overindulgence or excessive masturbation.  The anxiety is typically very intense and of sudden onset.  The condition is “treated” by having the penis held firmly by the patient or by family members or friends. Often the penis is clamped to a wooden box.”

And to cap this all off here is something almost completely random – the young fellow who made this video calls himself Amok.

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