Bipolar Disorder in Italy

*Bipolar disorder has been seen throughout the years.  As early as 300 to 500 AD persons with bipolar were euthanized.  These ill individuals were seen as crazy and were said to be possessed by the devil.  They were restrained, chained, and their blood was ‘let out’.  It was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that a healthier approach to mental disorders was adopted.  (Stephens; 2007)  In fact, the term mania and melancholia were coined by the ancient Greeks and Romans.  In order to treat agitated or euphoric patients they even used waters of northern Italian spas and even believed that lithium salts would aid in treatment.  The term manic-depressive psychosis was termed in 1875 due to the work of Jean-Pierre Falret.

In Italy, as well as elsewhere in the world, patients suffering from bipolar disorder do not normally attend the clinic of their primary care physician during euphoric periods.  They usually see these periods to be more of a phase of well-being or depressive remission.  This social stigma makes it extremely difficult for health care professionals to accurately diagnose bipolar disease.  (Carta et al; 2011)

Proven throughout the medical community is the fact that the response of the use of antidepressants is often unsatisfactory.  However, a preliminary study performed in Italy found that approximately 20% of bipolar patients were receiving only traditional antidepressants as treatment.  These cultural and medical factors severely decrease the effectiveness of treatment of bipolar disorder in Italy.   It was also discovered that 21.3% of patients in Italy who had been prescribed an antidepressant for depression actually had bipolar disorder.  (Hirschfeld et al; 2005)

As bipolar patients are more likely to seek medical attention during a depressive state than a euphoric one, it is offered that physicians should always consider bipolar disorder for patients presenting with depression.  (Carta et al; 2011)  Patients suffering from bipolar disorder are also turning to alternative and complementary medicines for treatments, a few of which include omega-3 fatty acids, St. John’s wort, and acupuncture.  Researchers are greatly advising that people be informed of the possible risks of alternative treatments.  ( 2007)  REAC-lithium (a radioelectric asymmetric brain stimulation device with lithium) is also being tested as a possible treatment for bipolar disorder; it has shown impressive results. (Mannu et al; 2011)

*Emily Martin is an anthropologist that wrote about and has experience with bipolar disorder.   She argues that “mania and depression have a cultural life outside the confines diagnosis, that the experiences of people living with bipolar disorder belong fully to the human condition, and that even the most so-called rational everyday practices are intertwined with irrational ones.”  (Martin; 2009)  Martin pulls a lot of her knowledge on bipolar disorder from her own experiences with it.


Carta, Mauro; et al.  The Lifetime prevalence fo bipolar disorders and the use of antidepressant drugs in bipolar depression in Italy. October 24, 2011.  Accessed August 10, 2012.

Caution urged on bp alternative treatments. 2007. 2007.  Accessed August 10, 2012.

Hirschfeld, Robert; et al. Screening for Bipolar Disorder in Patients Treated for Depression in a Family Medicine Clinic. August 2005. accessed August 10, 2012.

Mannu, Piero; et al.  Long-term treatment of bipolar disorder with a radioelectric asymmetric conveyor. June 2011.  Accessed August 10, 2012.

Martin, Emily.  Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. 2009.  Accessed August 10, 2012.

Stephens, Stephanie. Through the ages, it’s been there. 2007-2012  Accessed August 10, 2012.

Public Health and Medical Anthropology

*I decided to pick public health in medical anthropology because of how easy it is to travel around the world. As we move quicker and easier around it is easier for diseases, bacteria, and viruses to also move around with us. As these diseases spread to areas in which they had not previously inhabited, they can have extreme reactions and can even cause epidemics. Medical anthropologists can help greatly in discovering the best ways in which to fight these epidemics. They can assess the different cultures views and beliefs and incorporate that into the most effective treatment. In fact, there are currently 45-55 medical anthropologists working for the CDC. (Fiske; 2007) I think this type of work would be fun, interesting, and exciting and I hope to one day work for the CDC as a medical anthropologist.

*Taking an anthropological view in any area of healthcare can be extremely helpful. One culture will/can see things extremely differently than another. This can cause persons of one culture to not visit the doctor for medical conditions that may be life threatening whereas a person in another culture with the same condition would not hesitate to see a doctor as soon as they possibly can. It can also affect their probability of taking medications. One culture may see the medication as poison and refuse to take it where as another culture may have individuals that just can’t afford to purchase the medication. Knowing these different reasonings and ideals in the cultures will help medical professionals to better treat individuals.

It can also help in determining if the issue in treatment is due to cultural differences or something else. This is seen in an example from Kleinman and Benson’s essay ‘Anthropology in the Clinic: The Problem of Cultural Competency and How to Fix It’. (2006) In their Case Scenario found in box 1 they discuss the affect of a Mexican man’s culture on his son’s HIV treatments. The man had a rather complete understanding in regards to HIV and the treatments for it but had not been bringing his son in for regular care. The doctors working his case believed this was due to the man’s “radically different cultural understanding”. However, the anthropologist helping on this case came to realize through conversations with the man that he did not have the time nor the funds available in which to take his son to the clinics in order to receive his healthcare as needed. In other words, it was not his cultural differences but his socioeconomic situation that altered his treatment routine.

“I Have Autism”

*In the “I Have Autism” episode three male teenagers were talking about their lives with autism.  The first one, Jeremy, has autism that greatly affects his daily life.  It keeps him from being able to talk.  However, he learned to use a new device called a Lightwriter.  He could type what he wanted to say and the lightwriter would speak for him.  He was able to make friend, go on a date, and even attend a community college, thanks to the lightwriter. 

The second teen, Jonathan, has mild autism.  He can speak but has problems putting words together and thinking of what he wants to say.  He is also what we call an autistic savant.  He is autistic yet is an amazing artist that actually has his work shown in art galleries throughout New York.  He is currently trying to take control of the tantrums he has randomly. 

The third teen, Elijah, has Asperger’s syndrome.  This is a high functioning autistic condition.  He learned to talk by making people laugh.  He loves comedy and even says his purpose in life is to make people laugh.  He travels to Los Vegas for a comedy festival.  He meets with professional comedians and they offer the idea of him making his autism into a joke.  He is terrified of the reactions he may get from the audience but goes for it anyway.  It turned out to be a hit.  He now takes one day off school a week to perform in comedy clubs in New York. 

*Each of the three narratives covered in this episode are quest narratives.  Each teenager sees an opportunity in which to improve themselves.  They know they will never be a normal teenager (even though they each do wish they could be) and are primarily focused on their emotional wellbeing and happiness. 

*The use of these narratives is mostly to help the outside world understand autism and what autistics go through on a normal basis.  It also benefits the teenager so he does not feel so isolated and alone. 

*I was personally shocked as to the culture and stigma of these three teenagers.  The culture is that of an American but there was little negative stigma toward the autistics.  Jeremy attends mainstream schooling and has classes with other ‘normal’ teenagers.  They seem to really like him and don’t seem to put him down because of his disease.  With his lightwriter it becomes clear that they didn’t really understand the ability of his brain as he does understand the world around him, he just can’t verbalize anything.  Jonathan, however, was seen as an artist and people really seemed to like him for who he is and didn’t put him down for his autism.  In fact, I think he was able to get away with more because of his autism than he would have if he didn’t have the illness.  Elijah was afraid people would not like him because of his illness; I also expected the same.  He was terrified of bringing the autism out verbally on stage.  However, he turned out to be a hit and he even verbalized his surprise and joy that no one stood up and walked out. 

*During the episode the only teen that showed any experience with medical professionals was Jonathan.  The doctor seemed very understanding and supportive even though they cannot seem to pinpoint a cause for his tantrums. 

*The sick role in these cases included not having to do house hold chores like putting away laundry, doing the dishes, and cleaning.  However, in Jeremy’s case, he was expected to help feed the dog.  Also, all three teenagers attended specialized classes in school.  Jeremy attended a mainstream school but mainly went to special education classes.  Jonathan and Elijah both attended special schools for persons’ with autism.

*Illness narratives are extremely useful to patients, family, and healthcare providers.  This is seen in Werner’s “Illness stories on self and shame in women with chronic pain”.  The narratives the women give help others around them realize they are not alone, help themselves feel part of something, and helps medical professionals see the emotional impact illness have on people.  In ‘A Dad’s Story of Male Post-Partum Depression’ the writer hopes to share his story and allow others to see that they are not alone in the way they feel.


*Fibromyalgia is an illness where the nerves in the body rapidly misfire at random times.  This rapid misfire causes severe and mostly debilitating pain.  In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia you must have had this chronic widespread pain for at least three months.  Fibromyalgia makes it difficult to function normally and the symptoms are rather spotty.  One person can have one set of symptoms where as another person can have a completely different set of symptoms (pain is always a symptoms).(1) 

The American culture does not yet understand fibromyalgia.  It is difficult to understand the pain and symptoms a person with fibromyalgia is experiencing when it is as hidden as pain is.  There are no major outward symptoms like rash or bleeding so we can’t readily see the illness in another person.  It is also largely expected in this culture to not show weakness or pain.  When pain is outwardly shown it is seen as weak and people begin to believe you are overreacting.  Fibromyalgia patients are repeatedly questioned and judged in regard to whether they are actually ill, or just suffering from some imaginary illness.  Sometimes they are even given a psychiatric label.  In fact, fibromyalgia has been described as the ‘new psychiatric disorder’ and even a modern form of ‘hysterical epidemics’.(Werner, 2004)  This can be especially difficult for someone experiencing such immense pain on a normal, daily basis with very little relief from medications. 

In such a tricky culture to experience such a devastating illness, it can be just as tricky to make medical professionals believe your illness is real.  This is discussed in Werner, Isaksen, and Malterud’s article in Social Science and Medicine (2004).  It is indicated that ‘hard work was needed to make the symptoms socially visible, real, and physical when consulting a doctor.  Their efforts reflected a subtle bodily and gendered balance not to appear too strong or too weak, too healthy or too ill, or too smart or too disarranged.  Attempting to fit in with normative, biomedical expectations of correctness, they tested strategies such as appropriate assertiveness, surrendering, and appearance.’

*I believe this complete negative view of fibromyalgia causes extreme issue in managing and treating the illness.  The lack of cultural understanding can cause the patient to become more depressed and unsociable than the illness will itself.  When medical professionals misdiagnose or refuse to diagnose fibromyalgia, it can keep the patient from medications that can help to manage the symptoms and help improve their lives culturally and socially. 

*As for belief and healing; I do believe there is an extensive and amazing connection.  Our brains really can do amazing things.  It is seen all the time in cases of hypochondriacs (which I am myself or so I’ve been told by a psychiatrist).  There is not normally anything medically wrong with a hypochondriac but because they believe it, they can begin to show signs and symptoms of the illness or disease they believe they have.  In the other aspect of belief and healing is the placebo effect.  In the film “Placebo: Cracking the Code” was an example of the elephant skin boy.  In this example the boy had a deadly disease that caused his skin to harden and become leather-like.  The anesthesiologist that cured him with hypnosis was sure he was treating warts, not a serious deadly disease.  Since both the boy and the anesthesiologist believed completely in the curing affect of hypnosis, the boy’s brain was able to heal itself and his skin.  The anesthesiologist tried to use hypnosis on several other patients but found it to be of no help as he himself did not believe in the power of hypnosis for the elephant skin disease.  If people truly believe that something will positively or negatively affect their health, it will actually show to do just that in most cases. 


(1)   Cymbalta. Understanding Fibromyalgia. 2012. Accessed July, 24 2012.


Hwa-Byung in Korean Women

*The scholarly, peer reviewed article I used was Identifying and treating the culture-bound syndrome of Hwa-Byung among older Korean immigrant women: Recommendations for practitioners written by Myunghan Choi and Hye-A Yeom.  According to this article, Hwa-Byung is a medically relevant psychiatric term and literally means anger disease in Korean.  This disease is found in 4% to 11.9% of older Korean immigrant women.  It manifests itself due to suppression of anger, frustration, hate, animosity, and with any other negative feeling toward their family.  The most obvious symptoms include depression, anxiety, palpitations, lumps in the upper chest, and feelings of impending doom.  Hwa-Byung is usually self-diagnosed by Korean women but rarely is medical attention sought after as seeking psychiatric counseling or mental health services are negatively stigmatized in Korean society. 

When medical attention is sought after, there is usually a misdiagnosis of depression since the symptom presentations are greatly similar.  Proper assessment of Hwa-Byung should include the patient’s social, cultural, and life histories.  The use of a medical bilingual interpreter is also extremely helpful.  However, as most Korean women are uncomfortable talking about their age, education, and marital status, the use of a private demographic information questionnaire to be filled out prior to the appointment is very useful.

As stated in the article, “The unique features of Hwa-Byung that differentiate it from other mental illnesses are that patients acknowledge that they have Hwa-Byung; they have felt guilty for having it; they have been submissive or obedient; they have hidden their anger or negative feelings; they have sighed often; they have generalized anxiety; they have felt something was pushing up inside their chests; they had often felt their heart pounding; and yet they have extreme resilience and no suicidal ideation or attempts.”  The Hwa-Byung scale, which has been used for years in South Korea with great success, is available for use and should be used by medical professionals everywhere.

Treatment for Hwa-Byung should be a combination of both pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions.  However, if improvement is not reported after 6-8 weeks a referral to a psychiatric specialist or mental health services should be completed.  Other signs that the patient should be immediately referred to a specialist include that of serious major depression, suicidal intent, persistent self-neglect, or severe pulmonary or cardiac symptoms. 

 *Culturally speaking, Hwa-Byung can manifest simply because the individual does not seek medical attention upon first onset of stress or anger as psychiatric illness are greatly stigmatized in the Korean culture.  As the stress is held onto and bottled up, it can turn to anger.  This anger will most likely be suppressed and will accumulate over time to eventually develop into Hwa-Byung.  This makes sense as Hwa-Byung has a development duration of approximately 10 years.  The Korean woman suffering from Hwa-Byung may also not seek medical attention as her first cultural responsibility is that of daily house chores.  Biologically, Hwa-Byung normally only occurs in older first generation Korean immigrants and middle-ages or older women in Korea.  This disease can be individually self-diagnosed and is more acceptable to Koreans than depression.  It can be caused by a multitude of different causes.  Basically, anything that causes the individual to become greatly stressed over a period of time can cause the eventual manifestation of Hwa-Byung. 

 *Persons with Hwa-Byung in Korea often seek treatment through Christianity.  The power and control that they seem to lack in their daily lives can be found in Christianity.(2)  In Korean culture, the most common treatments of Hwa-Byung include that of pharmacists, traditional herb physicians, shaman rituals, traditional medical physicians, and psychiatric treatments.(3)  


(1)Choi, M., & Yeom, H. (2011). Identifying and treating the culture-bound syndrome of Hwa-Byung among older Korean immigrant women: Recommendations for practitioners. Journal Of The American Academy Of Nurse Practitioners, 23(5), 226-232. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2011.00607.x accessed July 17, 2012.

 (2)Hwang, Y. H. (1995). A study of hwa-byung in korean society: Narcissistic/masochistic self-disorder and christian conversion. Princeton Theological Seminary). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, p 225., accessed July 20, 2012.

 (3) Min, Sung Kil (2004). Treatment and Prognosis of Hwabyung. Psychiatric Investigation, 1(1), 29-36., accessed July 20, 2012.

Mongolian Shamans

Mongolia Shamans are shown in the video “The Horse Boy”.  This video is a documentary of a four year old autistic child whose parents take him to Mongolia to complete a healing voyage.  The father, having witnessed the works of Shamans and seeing the power they seem to have, had the idea of taking his son to Mongolia to see two separate groups of Shamans and to visit the River that is ‘good for the brain’.  The family, after traveling to Mongolia, met the first set of Shamans at a sacred mountain.  Before the arrival of the autistic child, word had spread and several Shamans had travelled to the mountain in order to help.  After the rituals of the Shamans’ were completed, the boy seemed to improve functionally.  He still had his ups and downs but seemed to interact better with others.  The second task was to visit the river that is said to have healing powers specifically for the brain.  At the river the boy swam around and seemed to enjoy himself.  The third task was that of finding the reindeer herders.  It is said that the Shamans of the reindeer people are the most powerful of Shamans.  It was a difficult travel to find the herders but the family and their guide were finally able to find them.  It was determined that the Shaman could help the child and the ritual was performed.  Upon completion of the ritual the family was told their child would become less and less autistic over the next few years and would immediately stop his fits and messes in his pants.   After this, the child did start using the toilet for his needs in a proper manner and his fits also stopped. 

The healers in this case were that of Shamans.  They are seen as very important people with great powers and are high on the social status ladder.  The Shamans of Mongolia use several different techniques.  The main one is that of the use of a drum.  They can also go into trances in which they speak with spirits.  Potions are also used and can be in several different forms.  In this specific case with the family described above, a potion was used for the child to drink and one was used for the mother to rub on herself.  There were also incense, chants, and the use of a whip on the parents.  The Shamans do not have very much interaction with the patient; it was usually the helpers or the parents.  When interactions did occur, they were kind, gentle, and caring. 

Shamans act in the Folk sector of healthcare.  Healthcare is delivered by the patient going to the Shaman or even by the Shamans going to the patient.  (Both of these ways is seen in “The Horse Boy”)  The body and symptoms are understood as spirits affecting the individual.  In the case of “The Horse Boy” the spirit was that of the mother’s grandmother.  The grandmother’s spirit was holding onto the child and was almost like trying to pull him away.  The treatment includes chants, potions, incense, whipping the parents, and trances in which the Shaman speaks with the spirits.

“Becoming American”

I only guessed 7 out of 10 correct on the Health Equity Quiz.  After reading the answers on the first three questions I was able to correlate these answers with the rest of the questions in order to guess correctly on the rest.  All 10 answers were guesses, to be honest.  The statistic I found to be the most surprising with that of the greatest difference in life expectancy observed between U.S. counties.  I did not expect the life expectancy to jump by such an extreme amount simply between counties.  To have an expected extra 15 years in one county compared to another is simply shocking. 

“Becoming American” is the perfect example of how globalization, urbanization, and development does not always equate to better health.  New immigrants into the U.S. are healthier than Americans.  However, the longer they stay here the more their health degrades.  The main family portrayed in the video is that of Amador Bernal.  Amador moved to the U.S. to work in the mushroom fields of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  He was eventually allowed to bring his family here with him.  Amador and his family are very close knit, as are most Mexican immigrant families.  They help each other out as much as they can.  In example is that of Amador taking his relatives to the store because he has a car and they do not. 

However, health of the immigrants starts to deteriorate as they spend more time in America.  Since their wages are so low and they are already having trouble making ends meet in the upscale community they live in, they do not take time off their 7 day a week work week to see a doctor if they do have symptoms or issues.  As children are here longer they begin eating as American do; eating more and more unhealthily.  They also start to lose their family ties as parents are working long hours to support the family.  When the children are old enough to work they do; because of this their grades can suffer in school.  Bad grades then equate to a lesser education and lesser income when they have their own family to support. 

In helping health of the community, free clinics are set up in places such as the farm where Amador works.  The community center helps to keep the kids safe.  They offer a place to go after school where they can study, get help with school work if needed, have access to a computer, and just hang out. 

Politics, economics, environment, culture, biology, and individual choice all influence illness in different population.  Politics can help to create better living conditions, increase minimum wage, and pass laws to keep companies and industries from discriminating.  However, politics can also do great harm to populations’ health.  They can easily ignore that of cities and counties in need and can affect the views of the majority on that of the minority.  

Economics also have extreme affects on health.  When the surrounding economy is doing well, people are making money and spending money, housing worth is efficient, and jobs are plentiful more people will be under less stress.  In contract, when the economy is decreasing health will also deteriorate.  When people are stressed about money, jobs, and housing their health will be affected negatively.  Stress, especially constant stress, has a largely negative effect on health. 

When the environment is composed of moldy walls, unhealthy foods, and gangs there are more issues with respiratory problems, obesity, high blood pressure, and untimely death just to name a few.   If there is ample access to healthy foods, safe streets, healthy housing people tend to be healthier overall. 

Culture can also greatly affect one’s health.  It has been shown that cultures that promote close family bonds are usually healthier whereas when culture does not attack great importance on families people tend to isolate themselves and extreme isolation can kill.  Biology is a very tricky health affecter.  Some people and ethnicities are more susceptible to certain diseases and health problems whereas certain health issues can actually help fight other health issues.  In example, a person with one single sickle cell recessive gene has a better chance of living through being infected with malaria.  A person with no recessive genes for sickle cell is more likely to die from a malaria infection.  Then again a person with two recessive genes for sickle cell will have the sickle cell mutation and are unlikely to live beyond a certain age.  

Lastly is that of individual choice.  Persons can easily choose to eat at a fast food restaurant or pack healthy food for their day.  A person can choose to smoke or to not smoke, to drink in access or to not drink, or even to join or not join a gang.

White Women and Respiratory Disease

*After deciding on two different health disparities before respiratory disease I came across an article that changed my mind.  It showed the graphs seen above and as you can see, respiratory disease is much more prevalent in white women than any other social race.  Respiratory disease in itself can be any number of different diseases ranging from emphysema to asthma to COPD.  However, I would like to focus mainly on one disease that would fall under the large umbrella that is respiratory disease. 

Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a serious disease that can cause the lungs to be left vulnerable to attack by an enzyme called neutrophil elastase. Neutrophil elastase is produced by white blood cells when an infection or other irritants are introduced to the lungs.  This enzyme will digest damaged tissue in the lungs and is needed in small amounts.  Alpha-1 antitrypsin is used to protect the lungs from unnecessary attack from neutrophil elastase.2 

This deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder.  In other words, the patient with the disease must have inherited the recessive trait from both their mother and father.  Also, the recessive trait is carried more in whites than in persons of other social races causing the increased prevalence in whites.

*Race, genetics, and health are greatly interlocked and affect each other.  Genetics, between races are not substantial enough to divide the world into different races.  Race, however, is more of a social term.  With that said, the main differences in genetics between races are that of skin color, hair color, etc.  Skin color was determined thousands of years ago due to the location in which humans lived in reference to the equator.  At the equator the UV and UVD rays are stronger causing darker skin pigmentation.  This helps to block out the harmful UV rays of the sun and only needs to allow a small amount of UVD rays for the production of Vitamin D in skin.  However, the further from the equator the lighter the skin color would be.  This was due to the fact that UVD rays are strong enough for Vitamin D production in skin only a small portion of the year.  Also, the UV rays are less intense allowing lighter skin colors. 

Health in different races is dependent on many more things than just race and genetics.  The stresses imposed on different racial groups by the majority causes health issues; especially when this stress is constant.  Also, the environment in which persons live can affect health.  When the environment does not allow for healthy food, or adequate income for life, health can deteriorate for any person of any race. This can all be seen in the Unnatural Causes video “Place Matters” and is discussed in this week’s Lecture 1.


 1.  National Heart Lung and Blood Institute People Science Health

        2011 Fact Book. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.  , accessed July 12, 2012


2.  Learn Genetics Genetic Science Learning Center

         Genetic Science Learning Center, “Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency,”     

         Learn.Genetics, 31 December 1969,      
, accessed July 12,


Spirit Possession

My definition of health is that of the absence of illness.  Illness, as I define it, is any bacteria or virus that causes adverse reaction in the human body.  Illness can also be that of a mutation in the cells or alteration in hormones that cause adverse reactions in the human body creating temporary or permanent disease. 

I think for me these ideas came from all aspect of life, but mostly from school.  I have been educated in medicine and human biology.  I had been expecting to become a nurse and completed all prerequisite training for the nursing program.  Due to my education and the classes I have completed I depend mostly on the information learned through my schooling to understand health and illness. With that said; I also believe that the information taught in schooling is also a result of influences by society, the media, and even from personal experiences of influential people.   

It was difficult for me to pull out just three conditions from the list that I wanted to discuss but I decided on Old Age, Sadness, and Spirit Possession.  I believe each of these three conditions are not illnesses even though some people may believe they are.  Old age is simply a normal condition of life.  It happens to all people (unless death occurs untimely) and not all old persons have an illness. However, illness does usually occur more frequently in persons of old age, this does not mean that old age itself constitutes an illness.  Sadness is also not an illness.  It is an emotion and can be caused by illnesses but is not always.  It is also a normal condition of life as circumstances change and environments are altered, individuals can become sad.  A death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, and even earthquakes are just a few examples that can and normally do make people sad.  Then there is spirit possession.  This was a tricky one to differentiate. However, I personally do not believe that spirit possession really exists.  It is usually just a disease or illness that is altering a person’s mental capacity and/or movements. There is always a logical medical explanation for someone who is ‘spirit possessed’.  Therefore, since spirit possession does not really exist it cannot be an illness.


I feel as though the experiential approach will help me most in learning and understanding medical anthropology for one very important reason.  People’s ideals, interpretations, perceptions, and understandings of things are what molds the culture around them. In order to truly understand what people do we need to understand why they do.  Being able to see/hear narratives in regards to a person’s illness, their experiences with said illness, as well as the meanings they find in which to make sense of their illness is key in understanding their actions.     

The distinction between disease and illness is only slightly obvious to me.  It can be hard to distinguish between the two and to see things in a different light, so to speak.  Disease is the actual clinical alteration of physical function or infection.  Illness, however, is what culture says it is.  It is based off the human experience and our own perceptions of alterations in health.  It is determined by the broader social and cultural context. 

The Nacerima article tricked me greatly.  I have previously read the article in another anthropology course I took at LCC.  It was not until after reading Miner’s article that I realized he was referring to the American culture.  I was only opened to this fact upon reading other posts by other student in the online class at LCC.  I had noticed many similarities between the ‘Nacerima’ culture and our own but never thought that Miner was actually speaking of the American culture.   

The first ritual I want to discuss is that of the shrine and the magic potions.  The magic potions, or medications as we call them, are of high value in the Nacerima culture.  Miner shares that the natives do not believe they can live without these potions and yet don’t even remember what most of them are used for nor do they remember how old they are.  To me this shows that this culture depends heavily on medicine and health.

Secondly, is the ritual of the daily mouth-rite. This daily mouth-rite is better known as that of brushing a person’s teeth with a “small bundle of hog hairs” ”along with certain magical powders” as described by Miner.  This represents the great belief that oral hygiene is extremely important and is very valuable to the Nacerima people.

Lastly; I want to note that of the latipso; the place in which the medicine men work.  The ceremonies held within are harsh, painful, and miserable.  Men and women seem to welcome being stripped of their clothes in these latipsos even though in everyday life body secrecy is most important.  This shows that this culture believes that the medicine men will cure them of their diseases and illnesses no matter how painful and harsh the treatment may be.  Health and beauty is much more important than that of modesty or temporary pain needed to accomplish said health and beauty.