My definition of health is a beings ability to function sufficiently without any major dysfunction (so, the lack of disease or major injury). Illness is a tricky term because of the rising prevalence of mental disorders, and how some people may think they have certain disorders (depression, etc) when really they are under the influence of social pressures, like the constant advertisements that urge people to “ask their doctor” if such and such medication is right for them. So, in the end I would define an illness as any condition that hinders a persons ability to function due to some sort of underlying medical change. Information from a health psychology class I took last semester and the influence of media and our society’s emphasis on fitting in and being normal played the largest role in developing my definitions.

The first condition I want to discuss is anxiety. Anxiety as an actual recurring disorder is definitely an illness. It can be very hindering not only psychologically but physically, as well. This is especially true if the person experiences frequent panic attacks or avoids certain situations because of their experience with it. However, every human being experiences some form of anxiety in their lifetime so I wouldn’t believe it to be an illness until it affects his or her daily life.

Second, I do not find shyness to be an illness. Shyness to me is a part of human nature that results from an individuals disposition if not entirely from how they were raised. You cannot medically treat it – it is something that may hinder a person but is not as severe as something like an anxiety disorder.

Lastly, I do not find menstruation to be an illness though I believe our society very strongly encourages us to think it is one. The actual process is natural and so women have clearly functioned for centuries without all these special products. I may be especially bitter about this one because I am annoyed by the concept of PMS – though I find myself a bit moody at times, I do not like that our society teaches that it makes women crazy and is unavoidable. I can control myself, thanks, it is an unfortunate process not an illness.

Ethnomedical Approach

As an anthropology major, I am very interested in how various processes are interpreted (rather than being concerned with finding cures) and therefore find the ethnomedical approach to be the most useful for me to observe when studying medical anthropology. The “Nacirema study” is a good example of why this approach is important for anthropologists. Although we may feel we are being objective and moving away from ethnocentrism, there can always be a large gap between how separate individuals view a [medical] scenario.

I was familiar with the distinction between disease and illness but now it is more clear. Disease is defined as the clinical manifestation of altered physical function or infection, so a biological occurrence that debilitates a person. Illness, on the other hand, is the human perception of alternations in health and his or her experience of it. This is important because one individual may believe to have an illness when another person in the same scenario may not.

The culture that Miner is describing is our own American culture. When I first read his piece last year, I did not come to this conclusion but reading it again it seems very obvious and definitely critical of our practices (which I agree with). The first health ritual he mentioned was the concept of the potions (prescriptions) obtained from the medicine men, “which they believe they cannot live without”. This reflects on how much we value these ‘potions’ so much so that even if they do not work, we continue going back and getting more but never daring to throw the old medicine out. Second, the daily mouth rite (brushing your teeth) was described as an act of ritualized gestures to preserve teeth. This is important because he mentions that good teeth promotes social status, which is true in our culture, though I had never considered this before. Lastly, Miner describes the latipso, or hospital, which is a dramatically accurate depiction of how our beliefs and trust in these medicine men keep us coming back to be ‘cured’ even though the process is very torturous. I appreciated that he added that children fear the institution because “this is where you go to die”.

professional pool clerk

     Hi, my name is Amanda Rzotkiewicz and I am a juniorish senior or something. This past year was my first full year as an anthropology major at MSU after transferring here from Oakland University. My anthro experience (here) thus far includes Intro to Archaeology, Women’s and International Health Perspectives and Social and Cultural Analysis. Currently, I am taking this class as well as Archaeology of Ancient Egypt and Language and Culture online. I may be crazy.
     Currently, I work every day of my life in the office of the St. Clair Shores city pool (not a lifeguard) and I teach color guard for Livonia Franklin HS. During the year, I have a glamorous position as a level one worker at The Gallery and build the exhibits for the MSU museum. If you have ever seen the new Silent Spring exhibit, I painted most of that! Spoiler alert, I have no background in art, so a real art major would probably be offended.
I’m also in an independent winter guard called Ancora. This is a picture of myself and some performers from Aimachi, a world class winter guard from Japan. They are amazing.