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Cross-Cultural Studies and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • Dan J. Stein and Judith L. Rapoport

Abstract

Despite increased attention to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in recent years, relatively little work has focused on cross-cultural issues. This paper reports on current thinking in this area, and considers ways of advancing the field.

An important theoretical distinction in medical anthropology is that between “disease” and “illness.” This distinction was employed to help review past cross-cultural studies of OCD and to consider further questions for empirical research. Several studies indicate that the medical disease of OCD is found in a range of cultures, with no apparent need for modification of diagnostic criteria. However, there is almost no work on how OCD as an illness—its subjective perception and experience—varies across cultures. Given the possibility that such variations may influence course and outcome, it is important to attend to them in future work. Further research on OCD needs to address unanswered questions about the epidemiology of the disease and to focus on neglected questions about variations in the subjective illness experience. Cross-cultural variations in illness experience are likely to lead to differences in the path of presentation, and may even result in variations in course and outcome.

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Cross-Cultural Studies and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • Dan J. Stein and Judith L. Rapoport

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