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Does psychiatry link culture and symptoms?

Abstract

Introduction

Transcultural psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry where cultural context for psychiatric symptoms is studied. It emerged as a consequence of migration of diverse ethnic groups and questions whether international diagnosis classifications fit in different cultures.

Objectives

The aim of this review is to make professionals aware of the importance of cultural context for the way mental disorders present themselves depending on the patient's origin.

Materials and methods

We report the detailed case of a 23-year-old Moroccan woman, attended for the first time by the mental health services when she was 8. Since that moment, she felt herself possessed by a strange being. Auditory hallucinations appeared. It was only when her father or her husband were at home that she felt the “being” was gone. Her husband, as formerly his father, represented a symbol of protection against that evil being and indeed against her mental disorder, which was directly related to her cultural beliefs.

Discussion

Every country has a different culture and every migration brings with it a new environment. The way people adapt to it may result in mental illness. We want to discuss if symptoms fit international diagnosis classifications.

Conclusion

Psychiatrists should become aware of the limitations of the international classifications when used on different ethnic groups. We should have a cultural approach in order to treat the diverse populations from all around the world.

Disclosure of interest

The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.

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Keywords

Does psychiatry link culture and symptoms?

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Does psychiatry link culture and symptoms?

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