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World Psychology: Psychology by Country · Psychology of Displaced Persons

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Hwabyeong, literally "anger illness" or "fire illness”, is a Korean term for a kind of culture bound somatization disorder. The illness manifests as one or more of a wide range of physical symptoms, in response to an emotional disturbance, perhaps brought about by stress, such as might result from troublesome interpersonal relationships or life crises. It most often occurs in females in their menopausal years, less-educated people, those of lower socioeconomic status and those from rural areas.

Behavior related to hwabyeong includes sighing. In addition, sufferers might report such symptoms as; a heavy feeling in the chest, perceived abdominal mass (previously thought to define the illness, but now believed to be atypical), sleeplessness, hot flashes, cold flashes and blurred vision. They may also demonstrate typical neurotic symptoms such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsiveness, as well as anorexia, paranoia or fearfulness, absent-mindedness, and irritability.

Western doctors are likely to diagnose it as a kind of stress or depression. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders currently lists hwabyeong among its culture-bound illnesses. Outside of Korea, informally, hwabyeong may be mistaken as a reference to a psychological profile marked by a lack of temper or explosive, generally bellicose behavior resulting from a lack of temper. To the contrary, hwabyeong is a traditional psychological term used to refer to a condition characterized by passive suffering, is roughly comparable to depression, and is typically associated with older women.

In South Korea, it is also called ulhwabyeong (鬱火病).

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