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Psychiatr Serv. 1999 Jun;50(6):774-80.

Mental health issues for Asian Americans.

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Department of Psychiatry and Research Center on the Psychobiology of Ethnicity, Harbor-University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, Torrance 90502, USA.


One of fastest-growing population groups in recent decades, Asian Americans represent a vastly diversified and rich mixture of cultures, languages, beliefs, and practices, many of which differ widely from those of European Americans. As immigrants, Asian Americans have experienced and continue to experience various emotional and behavioral problems. However, they tend to underuse existing services except those that are culturally appropriate and linguistically compatible. Misdiagnosis frequently occurs, and the existence of culture-bound syndromes points to a lack of precise correspondence between indigenous labels and established diagnostic categories. Due to Asian traditions of viewing the body and mind as unitary rather than dualistic, patients tend to focus more on physical discomforts than emotional symptoms, leading to an overrepresentation of somatic complaints. Traditional practices and healing methods are frequently used to alleviate distress both before and after patients and their family members approach the conventional mental health care system. Help seeking typically is a family venture. Asian patients respond well to highly structured therapeutic interventions such as those used in behavioral, cognitive, and interpersonal models. When applying pharmacotherapy, clinicians should pay attention to Asians' unique responses to psychotropics, especially in regard to dosage requirements and side effects. Research in this area as well as on other important issues is in the early stage of development.

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