Americanization of the Global Psyche

This article from the New York Times Magazine this weekend should be required reading for just about anyone, but certainly for mental health practitioners.

The Americanization of Mental Illness, by Ethan Watters

Don’t read the following if you plan to read the whole article, I don’t want to ruin the ending for you. But just in case the article is too long for you to commit to (it *is* long) here’s the final paragraph:

If our rising need for mental-health services does indeed spring from a breakdown of meaning, our insistence that the rest of the world think like us may be all the more problematic. Offering the latest Western mental-health theories, treatments and categories in an attempt to ameliorate the psychological stress sparked by modernization and globalization is not a solution; it may be part of the problem. When we undermine local conceptions of the self and modes of healing, we may be speeding along the disorienting changes that are at the very heart of much of the world’s mental distress.

A wonderful exploration into the psychic expression of symptoms in different cultures, and the psychic lexicon that is used in different regions. The DSM, the article points out, could at best be considered a compilation of American (maybe Western) mental ailments, but certainly doesn’t accurately describe the various distresses of psyche internationally. The dissemination of Western scientific ailments to other cultures we may actually be destroying mental health as well as undermining the standard cultural cures.

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