Running amok

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Running amok, sometimes referred to as simply amok[1] (also spelled amuk, from the Malay meaning "mad with uncontrollable rage") is a term for a killing spree perpetrated by an individual out of rage or resentment over perceived mistreatment.

The syndrome of "Amok" is found in the DSM-IV TR.[2]

The phrase is often used in a less serious manner in relation to someone or something that is out of control and causing trouble (e.g., a dog tearing up the living room furniture might be said to be running amok). Such usage does not imply murderous actions, and any emotional implications (e.g., rage, fear, excitement) must be gleaned from context.[3]


Malaysian origin

The word was used by the British to describe to run-a-muck, or murder indiscriminately.[4][5] It was later used in India during the British Empire, to describe an elephant gone mad, separated from its herd, running wild and causing devastation. The word was made popular by the colonial tales of Rudyard Kipling.

Although commonly used in a colloquial and less-violent sense, the phrase is particularly associated with a specific sociopathic culture-bound syndrome in Malaysian culture. In a typical case of running amok, a male who has shown no previous sign of anger or any inclination to violence will acquire a weapon and, in a sudden frenzy, will attempt to kill or seriously injure anyone he encounters. Amok episodes of this kind normally end with the attacker being killed by bystanders, or committing suicide.

During the American occupation of the Philippines, many noted incidences of individuals running amok in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu were documented in photographs. During the Spanish colonial period, the amuk's were called juramentador, meaning "those who have taken a vow", as the amok was confused with the tradition of shahid, who ceremoniously took a vow to God, detailing that he would die whilst attacking the enemy in the hopes of attaining Jannah. This vow was usually taken in front of a Rajah and an Imam before attacking. The same typical Malay method of spontaneous suicide attack with the kalis was used by syahid, yet a syahid would only attack enemy combatants, while an amok would strike out indiscriminately at civilians.

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