Recently a dear friend confided that at the start of her marriage, she experienced so many mother-in-law problems (sadly common in Japan) that she began to suffer from a certain medical condition that I swear I had never heard of before – I certainly didn’t understand the Japanese term for it. She assured me that it is quite common in Japan, and that both her own mother and her sister, not to mention countless other friends, had been treated for it. Apparently one of the major symptoms is hyperventilation, and the most common advice in those days was to simply breathe into a hankie or paper bag until it passes. Eventually I realised that she was referring to panic attacks. Now, these seem to be equally common in Western societies, especially amongst women (I had a few of those myself after the Kobe quake) but the way of describing the actual symptoms is vastly different. Where Japanese women talk of breathing problems, Western women are far more likely to complain of heart palpitations. I find it intriguing that the same condition is described in such different terms.
Didn’t they call that “the vapours” in the olden days? Do men have it too? Somehow I doubt it.