I'm suffering from Estrés Posvacacional

by La Sevillana /
La Sevillana's picture
Oct 07, 2009 / 1 comments

One of those things anthropologists study is the way in which illness is culturally constructed. This is not to say that illness is not a physiological fact, but that how we interpret symptoms, the way in which an episode of illness is responded to, and which illnesses are given legitimacy, are very much dependant upon the cultural context in which an individual lives.

Take, for example, homosexuality. It's almost inconceivable to us that homosexuality could be classified as a mental disorder; yet, it was once recognized as a legitimate illness in the U.S., and it was only after considerable outcry from the scientific community, and intense demonstrations at APA meetings by gay demonstrators, that homosexuality was eliminated altogether as a category of mental disturbance in the 1980s.

Like homosexuality, Síndrome de Estrés Posvacacional [Post-vacation Stress Syndrome] is an example of the way in which illness is context specific. This illness, recognized as legitimate in Spain, refers to a set of symptoms including mild depression, irritability, an inability to concentrate, insomnia, fatigue, loss of appetite and digestive problems that occur after an individual returns to work following an extended vacation. In extreme cases, and with a doctor’s written consent, it requires paid leave for full recovery.

Obviously, this disorder relies upon a specific social and cultural milieu to legitimize it. In the profits-driven, and some would say work addicted, social and cultural milieu of the U.S., it is unlikely that estrés posvacacional will ever be recognized as a legitimate illness requiring paid leave. In Spain, where taking the time to enjoy life and the company of friends and family are still highly valued, that an individual may have difficulties adapting to the multiple demands of work after an extended vacation is much more acceptable. 



cabellero (above) multi-tasks during feria.  

For a quick lesson in just how context specific illness can be, google post-vacation stress disorder in English and Spanish. Most hits in English result from blogs only half-jokingly referring to the disorder. Hits in the Spanish language, however, include news articles and information and advice from physicians, including the Centro de Tratamiento de la Ansiedad y el Estrés [Center for the Treatment of Anxiety and Stress] and the University of Navarra.

I, for one, took the advice of Spanish experts and chose not to return to work the day following my extended vacation. It is for this reason that I am one day late from when I promised the Wandering Educator publisher in posting this month’s blog (sorry, Jess). When in Rome…


A remnant from simpler days (left), when making olive oil was local and small-scale. Today, Spain is dotted with manufacturing facilities which make olive oil on a much larger scale, sometimes exporting their products internationally, indicative of the country's introduction to the global economy -- and the multiple stresses associated with it.

Comments (1)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    14 years 6 months ago

    I think the Spanish have got it right. It is too hard to come back, and then slide back into real life. THANKS for sharing this! (and that is sure ok abt being late. ;) )

    Jessie Voigts, PhD

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

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