Is Transcultural Psychiatry Possible?
Psychiatry is arguably the medical speciality most sensitive to cultural influences. An individual’s experience, expression, assessment, and regulation of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are shaped by culture. Since mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to stigmatization, the expression of such issues and their evaluation by others can vary significantly. Culture creates a framework for the assessment of emotional, cognitive, and behavioural expressions and for the thresholds of disease and disorder. While the field of psychiatry is committed to emphasizing the uniformity of psychiatric disorders across groups, partly to provide stable phenotypes and identify successful treatment, the limitations of this position have been articulated by anthropology, cultural psychiatry, and recently by neuroscience, which has given rise to the search for more biologically based classification systems. However, there is still little research about how culture affects the evaluation of symptoms and signs that are relevant for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For example, would individuals in Germany and Canada respond to antidepressants the same way?
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