Culture-Bound Syndromes

The article entitled “Disorders from the East Emerge Here” discusses briefly the cause and effect of what psychologists commonly refer to as culture-bound syndromes. A culture bound syndrome is a mental illness that is usually found in patients with ethnicity. According to the article, the sudden boom of the immigrant population in New York has triggered awareness for this kind of mental illness.

Often misdiagnosed for other classic illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, culture-bound syndromes are frequently found among Asian immigrants. Though there are a few known culture-bound syndromes found in Caucasian women and Hispanics as well, the article focuses on the Asian immigrant community and the effects it has on the social life of individuals who suffer from this mental illness.

The Asian immigrant community in the United States especially in a big city like New York has certain limitations regarding the quality of healthcare they receive. With the advances made by professionals who are intent in finding a cure within the beliefs and traditions a given patient’s ethnicity, doctors are now able to find a suitable, more efficient remedy in dealing with a culture-bound syndrome.

Clinics and doctors from Queens recently introduced a program that it is tailored made to cater Asian immigrants who are battling this type of mental illness. By using the concept of meditation and medication, Dr. Yong Cho, a former pastor in the South Korean Army and his assistant, Dr. Quixia Mei Lan, a Chinese immigrant, has already started treating 40 patients within the span of four months. (citation)

In dealing with their patients, both doctors give a healthy dose of herbs; talk therapy and prescription drugs to their clients in order to suppress the illness that they are experiencing. Though, taking in prescription drugs is still somewhat of a taboo in some traditions for these immigrants, they now find more comfort in taking anti-depressants such Prozac in dealing with their situations. The only problem that this program faced is the closed knit communities that these immigrants are a part of.

“The stigma and shame attached to mental illness, which can be much fiercer in Eastern cultures than in the West, can keep immigrants from seeking treatment, according to several experts and a 2001 report by the United States surgeon general. Many of the 800,000 Asian immigrants in New York City live in close-knit communities, where word spreads fast.” (citation) Some people tend to shy away from the solution rather than going towards it, which makes the job of the doctors harder in the sense that patients with rather go for the advice of a pastor rather than seeking professional help.

Another point that was discussed in the paper was the culture-bound syndrome that is most common among Hispanics called “ataque de nervios”. Ataque de nervios is a condition in which confined anxiety and anger causes the individual to fall on the floor and may experience uncontrollable shouting, attacks of crying and heat in the chest. This is according to Dr. Julia Ramos-Grenier, a psychologist and professor at the University of Hartford. “Cultural experiences are essential to understanding mental illness. Understanding the culture of the individual, she said, has a lot to do with making an accurate diagnosis.”(citation)

In dealing with a person that shows symptoms of  “ataque de nervios” or other similar mental illnesses, one must be aware of the situation at all times. We should take the necessary precautions in dealing with people who suffer from this kind of mental illness. It is always good to know that someone knows the basic first aid techniques in case the situation calls for it. Finally, for those people who suffer from cultural-bound syndromes, it is always comforting to let others know about your situation. By letting the people around you know about your condition, it would benefit your cause as well as the people around you to be prepared at all times.

References

Kershaw, S. (2003). Disorders From the East Emerge Here. The New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast). pg. B.1. Retrieved October 10, 2008 from http://www.writers.ph/sys/index.php?rate=20&order=209034

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