-I read an article based on the culture-bound syndrome of Shenjing Shuairuo, or Neurasthenia in western cultures. This article, by Lee and Wong, discussed how this once commonly diagnosed disease, had now made it on the DSM-IV list of “culture-bound syndromes” for its modern day prevalence in Chinese cultures. Neurasthenia was first coined in the United States in 1869, and was described as a disease with fatigue, headaches, anxiety, depression, and neuralgia. During the Victorian era this disease was commonly diagnosed in western countries, particularly the United States and Great Britain. As we progressed in the 20th century, the patients that were once diagnosed as having neurasthenia, were now typically diagnosed with more specific psychological or psycho-somatic diseases that better fit their actual symptoms. But the 20th century also saw the increase use of neurasthenia as a diagnosis for an array of symptoms in Asian countries, but mostly Chinese populations. The Chinese coined their own name for neurasthenia, “Shenjing Shuairuo” and described the symptoms based on principles of traditional Chinese medicine.
-The Chinese description of this illness was a “disharmony and imbalance of the qi (vital organs)”. The breakdown of the name “shenjing shuairuo” further describes the illness; “shenjing” means nerves or spirit, “shua” meaning degenerate, and “ruo” meaning weak. In China and in areas of high Chinese populations, the diagnosis of neurasthenia is often given to someone suffering from mental stress, depression, and anxiety. It is thought that using the diagnosis of neurasthenia or shenjing shuairuo in Chinese society because it is a very common term and diagnosis used between biomedical doctors and a lay person. This diagnosis is often used to prevent stigmatizing the patient, who may have actually schizophrenia or depression, and since this term is widely used and accepted, the person is much more likely to stay active in society and feel comfortable seeking and receiving psychiatric treatment.
-The articles I read made it clear that in Chinese society, the cultural prevalence of diagnosing a patient with shenjing shuairuo is in every sector or the culture- popular, folk, and professional. The articles stated that people in China were very quick and accepting of self-diagnosing themselves with this syndrome, and that traditional and biomedical practitioners both used this diagnosis rather frequently. They did state, however, that the professional sector doctors may do it more so patients don’t experience the stigma of mental disease, rather than clear-cut diagnosis.
1-Lee, S., & Wong, K. C. (1995). Rethinking neurasthenia: The illness concepts of shenjing shuairuo among Chinese undergraduates in Hong Kong. Culture, medicine, and psychiatry, 19(1), 91-111. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/content/j537g3k711631861/fulltext.pdf
2-Starcevic, V. (1999). Neurasthenia: cross-cultural and conceptual issues in relation to chronic fatigue syndrome. General hospital psychiatry, 21(4), 249-255. Retrieved from http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0163834399000122/1-s2.0-S0163834399000122-main.pdf?_tid=83ce0582fbfc74acb1b97bb51a0b5773&acdnat=1343003336_40df3f9e79b8806bc8b2f5665ee64f7e