Historical review of the cultural concepts around the denominations of epilepsy

  • Author Footnotes
    1 School of Arts and Humanities, EAFIT University, Medellin – Colombia, Studies in Philosophy, Hermeneutics and Narratives Research Group.
    Jaime Carrizosa-Moog
    1 School of Arts and Humanities, EAFIT University, Medellin – Colombia, Studies in Philosophy, Hermeneutics and Narratives Research Group.
    Department of Pediatrics, Child Neurology Service, University of Antioquia, Mapeo Genético Research Group, Clínica Noel, Calle 18B Sur No 38 – 51 Apto 304, Medellín, Colombia
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 School of Arts and Humanities, EAFIT University, Medellin – Colombia, Studies in Philosophy, Hermeneutics and Narratives Research Group.
Published:November 12, 2022DOI:


      • The history of epilepsy is rich in names for the disease.
      • Cultural names compete simultaneously with medical terms.
      • Cultural terms reflect a very broad conception, which goes beyond medical denominations.
      • The names can have an effect on the attitude towards the affected people.


      The characteristics of epileptic seizures, especially the fall, the scream, the loss of consciousness, the involuntary movements, and their recovery, confer conceptions of supernatural strangeness. A historical review is carried out on the denominations of epilepsy. Names such as “epilepsy” arise as “being overwhelmed by something”; the relationship with deities and demons; the influence of the stars; the struggle between good and evil in Christianity, or contact with the divine. Other denominations deal with legal aspects as in the case of “morbus comitialis” or “morbus sonticus”. The concepts surrounding the denominations can have an impact on the construction of the subjectivity and identity of the affected people. The medical names of epilepsy do not address the social and cultural concepts surrounding the disease, with which the person with epilepsy has lived and still lives.


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