Culture affects all areas of life, making it complex and beautiful. This interacts with psychology in all sorts of intricate ways. Some are expected. A therapist’s knowledge of their client’s culture can make treatment more effective. Others are perhaps not so intuitive, such as the revelation that people who are raised bilingual often report different personality traits when using or thinking in each of the two different languages. Personally, I become a lot more confused when I speak Swahili.
An aspect I didn’t realise existed until I was doing some reading in Psychology was that there are certain mental illnesses which are culturally bound. Essentially, some cultures have mental health disorders which are only recognized in those cultures. Disorders such as schizophrenia have ubiquitous symptoms occurring across cultures. Other disorders, still in the mental health category, only exist in certain places.
Ataque de nervios is one of these cases and is reported usually in Latinos from the Caribbean (but also in Latina America and Latin Mediterranean groups). The symptoms can include, but are not limited to: uncontrollable shouting, heat in the chest rising to the head, and verbal or physical aggression, seizure-like episodes and suicidal gestures. On top of this, the person may have amnesia during the ataque de nervios, which would suck.
Cases such as these highlight the importance that the environment can play in mental health disorders. Medical professionals, psychologists, and counsellors all need to be aware of the cultural history of the victims of the illness. If you have a mental health disorder and are seeking help, please let the professionals know your cultural history. Although, if you are Scottish, have lived in Scoltand your whole life, and sound Scottish, then the professionals will probably assume you are Scottish, so you probably won’t need to bring it up.
A quick note because it is a World Cup year. The delusion England fans feel every major football tournament is not a culturally bound mental health disorder. If it were the symptoms would include delusions of England playing good football and spontaneously singing “It’s coming home.”
Whilst there are others, I want to briefly mention one other mental health disorder which I found interesting because it is far removed from anything I have experienced culturally. Koro is a syndrome that apparent in South and East Asian groups, although it is known by many names. The syndrome is characterized by a sudden and intense anxiety that your penis, or vulva and nipples depending on sex, will retract into the body and may cause death.
One of the things I will be adding to the blog is writing short pieces on any particularly important, or interesting, things I find whilst doing research. Feel free to comment on them or let me know what you think. If you would like to see the links of any of the research or claims please let me know. I don’t mention them in the blog to keep it informal.