DOI: 10.1177/00207640231208374 ISSN: 0020-7640

“Havana Syndrome”: A post mortem

Robert E Bartholomew, Robert W Baloh
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Since 2016, an array of claims and public discourse have circulated in the medical community over the origin and nature of a mysterious condition dubbed “Havana Syndrome,” so named as it was first identified in Cuba. In March 2023, the United States intelligence community concluded that the condition was a socially constructed catch-all category for an array of health conditions and stress reactions that were lumped under a single label.


To examine the history of “Havana Syndrome” and the many factors that led to its erroneous categorization as a novel clinical entity.


A review of the literature.


Several factors led to the erroneous classification of “Havana Syndrome” as a novel entity including the failure to stay within the limitations of the data; the withholding of information by intelligence agencies, the prevalence of popular misconceptions about psychogenic illness, the inability to identify historical parallels; the role of the media, and the mixing of politics with science.

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