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Am J Psychiatry. 1999 Sep;156(9):1322-7.

Research on culture-bound syndromes: new directions.

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  • 1Rutgers University, NJ, USA. gortch@rci.rutgers.edu

Abstract

The unprecedented inclusion of culture-bound syndromes in DSM-IV provides the opportunity for highlighting the need to study such syndromes and the occasion for developing a research agenda to study them. The growing ethnic and cultural diversity of the U.S. population presents a challenge to the mental health field to develop truly cross-cultural approaches to mental health research and services. In this article, the authors provide a critique of previous analyses of the relationship between culture-bound syndromes and psychiatric diagnoses. They highlight the problems in previous classificatory exercises, which tend to focus on subsuming the culture-bound syndromes into psychiatric categories and fail to fully investigate these syndromes on their own terms. A detailed research program based on four key questions is presented both to understand culture-bound syndromes within their cultural context and to analyze the relationship between these syndromes and psychiatric disorders. Results of over a decade of research on ataques de nervios, a Latino-Caribbean cultural syndrome, are used to illustrate this research program. The four questions focus on the nature of the phenomenon, the social-cultural location of sufferers, the relationship of culture-bound syndromes to psychiatric disorders, and the social and psychiatric history of the syndrome in the life course of the sufferer.

PMID:
10484940
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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