Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche
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The most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture across the globe has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters, but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself. American-style depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia have begun to spread around the world like contagions, and the virus is us. Traveling from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka to Zanzibar to Japan, acclaimed journalist Ethan Watters witnesses firsthand how Western healers often steamroll indigenous expressions of mental health and madness and replace them with our own. In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been homogenizing the way the world goes mad.
the turn of the twentieth century or multiple personality disorder at the turn of the twenty-first) are examples of the unconscious mind attempting to speak in a language of emotional distress that will be understood in its time. People at a given moment in history in need of expressing their psychological suffering have a limited number of symptoms to choose from—a “symptom pool,” as he calls it. When someone unconsciously latches onto a behavior in the symptom pool, he or she is doing so for a
unlikely. Beginning with the scattered European cases in the early nineteenth century, it took more than fifty years for the disease to be named, categorized, and popularized by Western mental health professionals. By contrast, after Charlene fell onto the sidewalk on Wan Chai Road on November 24, 1994, it was just a matter of hours before the Hong Kong population learned the name of the disease, who was at risk, and what it meant. The people of Hong Kong did not come to these conclusions without
whatever I think about he sees it.” Much of the torment of having these male presences in her head related to Islamic rules of female modesty. While the voices were with her, she felt she must respect the codes of conduct as if she were actually in the presence of a man. At such times she could not bathe or undress and she tried not to go to the bathroom. Although she sometimes found it helpful to argue with the voices when they became critical, her sense of decorum made it difficult for her to
were structured within the overall health care apparatus of Japan. Services were in the midst of a critical change, he reported. There was a burgeoning concern in the population about mood disorders and the need for social attention to suicide rates and depression. He also documented how the Western definition and symptom checklist for depression—thanks to the influence of the DSM in the profession—was steadily gaining ground among younger psychiatrists and doctors in Japan. “Japanese psychiatry
the patient’s experience. Because the key symptom—restricting one’s eating—was an external behavior, Lee saw an opening to do an experiment. He decided to mimic the behavior of an anorexic in the early stages of the disorder. “I got it in my head,” says Lee, “that if I wanted to truly be an expert on this condition, I needed to experience it for myself.” So he began to severely cut back on his food intake and skip lunch entirely. He also began an intense exercise routine. Like all dieters, at