Nervios (PNRV) and ataque de nervios (ATQ) are culture-bound syndromes with overlapping symptoms of anxiety, depression, and dissociation, shown to have inconsistent associations to psychiatric disorder. Few studies test the basic assumption that PNRV and ATQ are uniformly linked to distress outcomes across Latina/o immigrant groups. This study examined: (a) the extent to which acculturative stress, Latino/U.S. American acculturation, and anxious predisposition were associated with lifetime history of ATQ and PNRV, and (b) the extent to which ATQ and PNRV add incremental validity in explaining acculturative stress and psychological distress beyond measures of anxious predisposition.
Participants (n = 82) included Mexican mothers who completed surveys on acculturation, trait anxiety, anxiety sensitivity, lifetime ATQ/PNRV, psychological distress, and acculturative stress.
Lifetime PNRV, but not lifetime ATQ, was significantly predictive of psychological distress. PNRV was also linked to trait anxiety. Psychometric measures of anxious predisposition (trait anxiety, anxiety sensitivity) were more robust predictors of distress outcomes than lifetime history of ATQ/PNRV.
Inquiry into lifetime history of nervios may be a useful point of entry in talking to Mexican immigrant mothers about stress and distress. However, standard tools for assessing anxiety sensitivity and trait anxiety appear most useful in identifying and explaining presence of psychological distress. Further research is needed to determine the cross-cultural relevance of trait anxiety and anxiety sensitivity, and its implications for the development of anxiety treatments that are effective across cultures.