Taijin Kyofusho in Japan

Taijin Kyofusho is a mental disorder that is essentially anthropophobia, which means the fear of interpersonal relations. The disorder is studied greatly from its cultural perspective, as it is especially prevalent in Japan and appears in various degrees and forms. Essentially, those with the condition suffer from severe introversion and anxiety. This anxiety and depression are the result of a tendency to focus on one’s weak points, such as “their own staring, blushing, facial expression, stuttering, bodily odors, blemishes and/or body deformities”. When an individual develops Taijin Kyofusho, the disorder begins with a hypochondriacal temperment and an accidental experience worsens the condition because the individual becomes very sensitive. The disorder is described as being different from typical social phobia, however. This is mainly because the patient does not suffer from social situations with friends and family, as is the case for social phobia. Also, those with Taijin Kyofusho are more focused on certain parts of the body.

A treatment for Taijin Kyofusho was originally developed by Masatake Morita, and the disorder is often conceptualized based on it’s treatment. Although the treatment has evolved over time, the original process was approximately 40 days long and involved various stages of isolation and activity. The Morita therapy was designed “to restore the patient’s mind to its condition before it was caught up in psychic interaction”. In the first stage, the patient was confined to bed rest and left alone to ponder his or her problems. The purpose of this stage is for the patient to learn that anguish leads to deliverance. In the second stage, the patient is still isolated but required to do simple chores. The third stage involves heavier chores. The fourth stage is more like modern treatments, with group meetings and lectures. The entire process has a very high success rate.

The treatment process for Taijin Kyofusho was developed around cultural values and mental processes. The treatment itself helps one to understand the disorder. Psychologically, the formation of ideas and beliefs were studied and approached. Biologically, the hypersensitivity and focus on certain body parts (resulting from these beliefs) can be broken down from the treatment. Cultural values and belief formation are what essentially separate Taijin Kyofusho from typical social phobia and form its prevalence in Japan.

Source: Journal of Psychosomatic Research
http://www.stanford.edu/~fumiko/publications.files/Maeda_1999JPsychosomRes.pdf

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