Taijin kyofusho is a Japanese culture-bound syndrome in which the sufferers have a variety of types of social anxiety and prefer to avoid social contact. However, this isn’t in the traditional sense. Sufferers typically are afraid of offending others, so they avoid social contact due to fear of their own social ineptitude. Often, sufferers are afraid of others being offended at their body odor, eye contact, or even their ugliness/physical deformities.
I read an article though that describes this CBS in a black American woman. I thought this was interesting because it’s obviously something that affects others in the world is not necessarily specific to Japan. In the article, a 34-year-old black American woman has a specific type of taijin kyofusho (TKS) in which she is afraid to communicate socially because she has a fear that she may inadvertently look at someone’s genitals mid-conversation and offend them. I found this interesting because it isn’t something so ridiculous: we may all have that moment where we attempt to make eye contact then slip up on accident, and suddenly become paranoid about what the other person may be thinking about us.
The woman was also shown to have OCD. She would do things in a left-to-right fashion like putting on make-up or shoes, would not drive under suspended train-rails, and would not use toilet paper from Chicago. She had developed these symptoms when she discovered that her husband may have been having an affair. The writer of the article begins to describe that TKS may not be a CBS but rather a simple social phobia. He also explains that TKS is simply more stressed in Japanese culture due to the stigma associated with offending others within their society. It shows that a small problem in many other cultures is a bigger problem in another due to their beliefs, not necessarily that the only place TKS can occur is in Japan.
For the woman’s treatment, she had to converse with her doctor/psychiatrist, while the doctor placed fingers in his lap. The woman had to count the fingers the doctor had out, which put her eye contact right at her doctor’s genitals. He also had her perform actions out-of-order to attempt to help with OCD. He even had her go to shoe stores and try on shoes, putting the clerks’ genitals within her vision. Unfortunately, after a few treatments, the woman reported TKS returning after a few months.