The Inca DSM

A 1999 article about ‘Mental disorder among the Incas in ancient Peru’ in the History of Psychiatry journal has a listing of mental illness recognised by the Inca empire.

The name on the left is in Ancient Quechua, the language of the Incas, and the translation is on the right.

Chayapu oncuy – Frenzy, madness
Chayapuy – Frenzy, madness
Chayapuyniyoc – Frenetic
Chayapuyok urek – Lunatic
Cupaypa yaucusccan – Possessed by the devil
Haucha utek – Furious fool
Llakiy – Addiction, sadness, anxiety
Manchay Ilakllay – Fear
Manchay utek – Furious fool
Muzpaycachak – Fool madman
Poqques – Innocent fool who knows nothing
Pputirayay huaccanayay vnccoy – Melancholy
Putirayay – Melancholy
Putiy – Sadness
Soncconnak – Fool without common sense
Utek chanak – Madman
Utek chanaynin – Insanity
Utek cay – Insanity
Utek – Fool or madman without common sense

Interestingly, the translation is only approximate, not because the original terms were necessarily hard to understand but because we no longer know the meaning of the Spanish words which they were translated into.

Apparently, the the conquistadores had their own vocabulary for mental disorder which has now been lost to time.

However, it seems the Ancient Incas not only had a complex classification system but they also had a wide range of psychoactive plants which they used to try and treat mental problems.

Clearly there are some conditions mentioned that we wouldn’t recognise today but as soon as someone on the DSM committee gets hold of the article you can assured they’ll be proposed for the next edition. Probably alongside an academic article telling us that the condition is poorly recognised and woefully under-diagnosed.

I discovered the article via the excellent Spanish-language psychiatry blog Desde El Manicomio which also comes highly recommended.

Link to PubMed entry for Inca article.
Link to Desde El Manicomio.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 27, 2010 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    I’m very grateful for the link and for your pleasant words, dear Vaughan. And, of course, always inviting you to visit Peru.
    Thanks a lot, again.
    Lizardo Cruzado


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