Pass the smelling salts

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.

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5 comments on “Pass the smelling salts

  1. Karen says:

    Oh, yes, men have panic attacks and they also hyperventilate. I’m not sure they are actually the same thing, but they could be. I think “the vapours” were something women invented to get their way and to be waited on.

  2. Petra says:

    Panic attacks – breath into a paper bag?

    Oh dear.

    The Samurai gene seems to be prevalent in Japanese women to this day.

  3. Miko says:

    Well, I’ve actually never heard of a Japanese male having one of these panic attacks. I kind of wish they would, then my trains wouldn’t be held up so often. Why do they have to be so extreme? Anyway, I know how awful panic attacks can feel (I had several after the earthquake thingie, mainly in bed at night), but they do pass eventually without any special treatment. I wouldn’t even waste a paper bag on one.

  4. Petra says:

    Well, let’s put it like that – all the paper bags in the country wouldn’t have helped me.

    But then I am a European softy, of course.

  5. Miko says:

    Sorry to hear it, how did you deal with it?

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