Chapter 10: Mental and Physical Health
- Hikikomori: social withdrawal in teens that they no longer want to have social interaction with
anyone and to shut themselves off from the outside world, most common in Japan.
- Dhat Syndrome: belief among young men that they are leaking semen, which causes them to
be morbidly anxious, most common in South Asian cultures and not in American cultures
(disapproval of masturbation).
- Culture-Bond Syndromes: those that appear to be greatly influenced by cultural factors and
occur less frequently or are manifested in highly divergent ways in other cultures.
- Eating Disorders: rates of these disorders have been increasing over the past 50 years due to
cultural norms and religious starvation as evident in saints (cultural messages that attractive
bodies are thin) and are more prevalent in Western societies.
o Bulimia Nervosa: a disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating and
induced vomiting or other inappropriate behaviors to prevent weight gain.
o Anorexia Nervosa: a disorder characterized by the refusal to maintain a normal body
weight, be intensely fearful or gaining weight, deny the seriousness of one’s low body
weight and for females, missing 3 consecutive menstrual cycles.
o Anorexia does not meet the standards for a functional universal but in some contexts a
similar motivation like self-starvation is associated with different ends (avoiding
becoming overweight vs. being spiritually ascetic).
- Koro: = the head of a turtle and is a syndrome more common among men where it manifests
as a morbid fear that one’s penis is shrinking into one’s body, most common in South and East
Asia (for women, fear is that their nipples are shrinking into their body).
- Amok: an acute outburst of unrestrained violence associated with homicidal attacks preceded
by a period of brooding and ending with exhaustion and amnesia, most common in a number
of Southeast Asian cultures like Malaysia.
- Frigophobia: a morbid fear of catching a cold, which leads people to dress themselves in heavy
coats and scarves even in summer, most common in China.
- Susto: people feel that a frightening experience has caused their souls to be dislodged from
their bodies, leading to a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms, most common in
- Voodoo Death: people are convinced that a curse has been put on them or that they have
broken a taboo, which results in a severe fear reaction that sometimes leads to their own
deaths, most common in Africa.
- Latah: a condition in which people fall into a transient dissociated state (exhibiting unusual
behavior like barking and shouting and then forgetting afterwards) after some kind of startling
event, such as being tickled or thinking they have seen a snake, most common in Southeast
Asian cultures, Siberia and Japan.
- Malgri: a syndrome of territorial anxiety, most common in Australian aboriginal groups.
- Agonias: an anxiety disorder when people report a wide array of symptoms like burning
sensation, loss of breath, hysterical blindness, sleeping and eating disorders, most common
among Portuguese and Azoreans.
- Brain Fag Syndrome: complaints of intellectual and visual impairment and a burning sensation
in the head and neck, most common among West Africa and Chinese students.
- Ataques de Nervious: emotionally charged incidents like funerals or family conflicts bring on
symptoms like palpitations, numbness and a sense of heat rising to the head, most common
with Puerto Ricans.
- Arctic Hysteria: a hysterical attack in which patients experience a sudden loss or disturbance of
consciousness, leading them to tear off their clothes, roll around in snow and speak unknown
languages, most common in Inuit populations.
1 Universal Syndromes
- Depression: symptoms include sadness, sense of futility and loss of energy (short/long periods
of time), the most common psychological disorder in the West.
o Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): severe depression
Symptoms: depressed mood, inability to feel pleasure, change in
weight/appetite, sleep problems, psychomotor change, fatigue/energy loss,
feelings of worthlessness/guilt, poor concentration and sucidality.
The prevalence of depression varies depending on how the diagnostic criteria
But NOT ALL depressed individuals show the same symptoms.
o Rates of depression in China are significantly lower than the United States.
o Somatization: when they feel symptoms primarily in their bodies.
o Psychologization: when their symptoms are primarily in their minds.
o Somatization is more common among Chinese presentations of depression than
among Westerners and psychological ones are fewer in Chinese patients.
Differences in social stigma associated with mental illness.
The symptoms experienced by people across different cultures may be the
same but people from some cultures tend to focus on certain symptoms more
than people from other cultures.
The symptoms are experienced differently across cultures.
- Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia: the fear that one is in danger of acting in an inept and
unacceptable manner and that such poor performance will result in disastrous social
o This is more pronounced among East Asians than North Americans because there is
more emphasis on the value of fitting in with others (being interdependent).
o Even though East Asians tend to score higher than Westerners on measures of social
anxiety, surveys find far less evidence of people who meet clinical criteria of social
anxiety disorder in East Asia than in the West.
o Taijin Kyoufushou (TKS): phobia of confronting others but its symptoms are quite
distinct from social anxiety disorder (extensive blushing, body odor and sweating).
It doesn’t only preoccupy the individual but it also causes great deal of unease
More common disorder in Japan than society anxiety disorder in the US.
Social anxiety disorder is more common in the West among women and TKS is
more common in Japan among men.
- Suicide: most tragic consequences of mental illness.
o Suicide is more significant part of some cultures than others and is virtually absent in
Egypt and in some other Muslim cultures, where the religion is prohibitive toward
o Except for Egypt, there was an increase in suicide rates among the elderly.
o Except for Egypt and Micronesia, the suicide rates were quite similar across cultures for
o Suicides in Micronesia occur mostly among adolescent males living at home with no
outward signs of any disorder or abuse (death by asphyxia) and are due to arguments
among peers and families.
o First Nations youth are susceptible to suicide because of loss of traditional c