Traveler syndrome: when traveling becomes a nightmare

More and more people are traveling. Not only in the summer, but throughout the year. Some people go to distant lands and have been looking forward to this for months, sometimes even years. But once on the spot a true culture shock follows. Some people can start doing very strange. Palpitations, dizziness, stuffiness, aggression, hysterical attacks and so on. This phenomenon was named traveler syndrome. There are various syndromes, depending on the location and cause of the disorder. For example, you have Jerusalem syndrome, Parisian syndrome, Indian syndrome and Stendhal syndrome. More and more people travel further and further. Not only during the summer but also in other periods of the year. Some have been looking forward to this trip for months, sometimes years, and have prepared it thoroughly. Yet the culture shock or the abundance of impressions can be so overwhelming on the spot that people suffer from traveler's syndrome. This phenomenon was observed in various places in the world.

The traveler syndrome

What is traveler's syndrome?

Traveler syndrome is a mental disorder, usually transient. The phenomenon occurs after a major culture shock. This can be in a distant country, but just as close to home as in Italy, for example. Traveler syndrome symptoms include home homesickness, delirium, aggression, hallucinations, pursuit madness, anxiety attacks, dizziness, tachycardia, hysteria, pursuit madness, and excessive sweating. This can happen when a person comes into contact with too much art or with religious symbols.

Which traveler syndromes are there?

These disorders were categorized into different categories: Stendhal Syndrome (too much art), Jerusalem Syndrome (too many religious symbols), Paris Syndrome (culture shock that Japanese people experience when they visit Paris) and Indian Syndrome (culture shock during a visit to India) ). The syndrome therefore occurs both in Europe (Paris, Italy) and far away (Jerusalem, India). Usually the symptoms of the traveler's syndrome disappear automatically when the person in question returns to his own environment.

View of the psychiatrists

Not all psychiatrists are convinced of the existence and causes of traveler syndrome. Some attribute the symptoms to classic traveler ailments such as tiredness, stress after a flight, the heat, the bustle, the noise, change of food, and so on. Others believe that the syndrome is reflected in people who already have dormant psychological problems. These are not reflected in the familiar environment but break through in a strange environment.

Different syndromes or just one?

Psychiatrists speak of different syndromes. The syndromes are each given a name of a city or a country. But is it about different syndromes? It is not simply about the traveler tout court syndrome. Not linked to a specific city or country, but simply linked to the overwhelming and unusual experience in a strange environment. Opinions on this are also divided.

Stendhal syndrome

Stendhal's syndrome proves that you don't always have to go far to be confronted with traveler syndrome. Stendhal's syndrome, also known as Stendhal's syndrome or Florence's syndrome, is caused by an abundance of incentives to view works of art, especially in the city of Florence as one of the names of this traveler's syndrome indicates.

Origin of Stendhal Syndrome

Stendhal, pseudonym for Henri Beyle, a French writer from the nineteenth century, was surprised by bizarre symptoms when he made a trip to Italy in 1817. During a visit to Florence, more specifically after a visit to the Santa Croce, the author suddenly got heart beats and was afraid that he would fall. To relax, he sat down on a couch where he read some poems. The symptoms did not diminish, the enormous cultural offer on all levels overwhelmed him even more. He wrote down these findings in his travel diary and in this way psychiatrists started to study the phenomenon.

Graziella Magherini

Stendhal's syndrome was only described and analyzed in 1979 by an Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini. She observed and described about a hundred cases among tourists in Florence. Her findings were that North Americans and Asians were not subject to the syndrome because the Italian culture was too far from their own. Italians, too, would not get the symptoms so quickly, since they were used to this culture and grew up with it. According to Graziella Magherini, it was mainly single people of both sexes who had a classical or religious education who were most likely to be affected by Stendhal syndrome.

Cause of Stendhal Syndrome

Usually a visit to one of the fifty museums in Florence and coming into contact with all the present beauty is the cause of the Stendhal syndrome. Some people even go so far as to incline to damage or destroy the artwork. They cannot cope with the idea that someone else would also view the artwork. Others get hysterical attacks. The guards in the museums of Florence received special training to deal with such attacks.


  • heart rhythm disorders
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • stuffiness
  • hallucinations
  • aggression towards the artworks
  • hysterical attacks

The Stendhal Syndrome in the movie

Stendhal syndrome has often been used in films. For example in:
  • "La nuit des généraux" by Anatole Litvak from 1967
  • "The Stendhal Syndrome" by horror specialist Dario Argento from 1996. Film based on the book by psychiatrist Graziella Magherini.
  • "Sans Elle" from Jean Beaudin from 2005
  • "Syndrome" by Yannick Delahaye from 2008
  • "Mariage à Mendoza" by Edouard Deluc from 2013
  • "La Grande Belleza" by Paolo Sorrentino from 2013 in which a Japanese tourist dies of a heart attack after seeing so many beautiful things

The Jerusalem Syndrome

What is Jerusalem Syndrome?

Jerusalem syndrome begins in Jerusalem after visiting holy places and coming into contact with the many believers. Between 1980 and 1993 there were about 1200 people with Jerusalem syndrome in Jerusalem. So there was a slight increase in the number of cases before the turn of the century. The beginning of the new millennium, the prediction of the coming of the Messiah and the rumors about the end of the world lay at the basis. Normally about 40 people end up in hospital every year with the Jerusalem syndrome. This concerns tourists, pilgrims and natives alike. There are always peaks around Easter and Christmas. The name Jerusalem Syndrome does not fully cover the load, because problems after religious experiences also occur in other holy places such as Mecca, Lourdes and the Ganges area.

Symptoms of Jerusalem syndrome

The symptoms of Jerusalem syndrome are:
  • wanting to purify the body, shaving hair and cutting nails
  • mystical delirium
  • smashing (religious) objects
  • enveloping in a white sheet
  • hearing voices
  • to identify with Biblical figures
  • the apparent pregnancy of women who want to identify with Maria
  • reciting passages from the Bible

Haim Herman and Dr. Yair Bar-El

The Jerusalem syndrome was first described clinically by psychologist Haim Herman in the 1930s. After that it became very popular through the theory of an Israeli psychiatrist, Dr. Yair Bar-El. According to him, the phenomenon mainly occurs with Protestants. With them the Bible is often read at the table. This gives the Protestants an ideal image of Jerusalem. When they arrive on the spot, the disillusion soon follows. Poorly lit churches, priests in strange garments, the bustle, the atmosphere at the Wailing Wall, the many icons and so on.

The Jerusalem Syndrome in the movie

There are at least three films with the title "Jerusalem Syndrome". The first is a 1998 documentary by Erin Sax. This is based on a true fact. The Australian tourist Michael Rohan was caught in Jerusalem by religious fervor and set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque. This led to a lot of riots in the city. A film by Stéphane Bélaish and Emanuel Naccache will follow in 2008. A funny comedy this time. In 2012 there is a movie with again "The Jerusalem syndrome" as title, this time by Sohrab Pirayesh. This film is about two young Americans without experience who travel to the Middle East to resolve the conflicts there.
Santa Croce / Source: StockSnap, Pixabay
Paris / Source: EdiNugraha, Pixabay
Jerusalem / Source: Ibrahim62, Pixabay
India / Source: (vincent Desjardins), Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

Paris syndrome

What is Paris Syndrome?

Paris syndrome is a psychological disorder in which Japanese people in particular get a shock when they visit Paris. Often they have been looking forward to it for years and have saved. Their vision of Paris has been shaped by films such as "La vie d'Amélie Poulain" and by Japanese magazines that keep publishing articles about the ideal French woman and fantastic French fashion. Once they are in Paris, they see that everything is not always so rosy. There is the hustle and bustle, the dirt in the streets, the stress, the people are not always friendly, it is expensive, the climate is disappointing, public transport is overcrowded, the food is very different and so on. Furthermore, there is also the language barrier because very few Japanese speak French. The French language and the French temperament is often also very shocking for the reserved Japanese. Add to that the fatigue, the hourly difference and the jet lag and you don't need much more before the stops stop for some people.

Hiroaki Ota

The Paris syndrome was first mentioned in 1986 by Professor Hiroaki Ota, a psychiatrist living in Paris. It is only in 2004 that the Paris syndrome was described. The number of cases per year would be very bad considering the large number of Japanese people visiting Paris. It would mainly be women who would suffer from Paris syndrome. They suffer the most from the exuberant and casual French.

Symptoms of Paris syndrome

The symptoms for Paris syndrome are:
  • delirium
  • hallucinations
  • pursuit madness
  • anxiety attacks
  • tachycardia
  • dizzy ones
  • profuse sweating

Paris syndrome in movies

The book "Le syndrome de Paris" by Philippe Adam from 2005 was filmed in Japan by Saé Shimaï in 2008. There is also "Mimi no nikki" by the French director Bren-Ya Ba from 2012.

The Indian syndrome

What is Indian syndrome?

In the book "L'Inde rendrait-elle fou?" Regis Ainault writes in 2002 about young Westerners suffering from Indian syndrome. Too much emotion and the huge culture shock are supposed to be the basis. The ubiquitous poverty, the hustle and bustle, the many sounds, the sharp smells, the warm climate and the very different culture cause some Indian people the Indian syndrome.

Symptoms of Indian syndrome

The symptoms of Indian syndrome are:
  • anxiety attacks
  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • pursuit madness

How can you prevent traveler syndrome?

It is not known in advance who will be dealing with traveler syndrome. Both people with psychological problems before departure and people without any problems can fall prey to this bizarre phenomenon. There are, however, a number of things that you can take into account to limit the risk of traveler syndrome.
  • inform you well about your future vacation location. Read travel guides, travel blogs and contact people who have already been to the country
  • selfknowledge. If you are an anxious person by nature, then it might be better not to travel to countries where things do not always go smoothly
  • take into account a certain adjustment time. Do not fly in immediately from the moment you step off the plane
  • do not leave if you are depressed, if you are tired after heavy exams or if you have just had a relationship break
  • if it is your first long journey, it is best not to leave alone. Perhaps it is better not to go too far for the first time
  • If you don't feel 100 percent, then don't hesitate to ask for (medical) help on the spot
  • be sure to take out travel or additional healthcare insurance that covers healthcare and repatriation before you leave

Video: What Women With Autism Want You to Know. Iris (April 2020).

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