W2: Cultural stigmas of illness and disease

The explanatory model is such an important concept because the way in which a person will be treated for an illness or disease is dependent on their own explanatory model. It is known that there are different religions, beliefs, and geographic locations in the world which may have different explanatory models. In Western medicine, or biomedicine, illness is represented as biological and chemical elements that need to be fixed, as stated in our class lecture on the explanatory model. This deals with thinking of illnesses and diseases as chemical imbalances, which can then be fixed through drugs, injections, etc. There are, of course, other ways to go about illness, disease, and the healing process, and these vary within different cultures. Some cultures believe that illness and disease come about because of some sort of evil spirit, and can only be fixed through trips to see the local priest, much like McGruder’s model being explained through religious aspects. Other cultures may believe that the best way to fix an illness or disease is through more of a holistic treatment, focusing on the treatment of the whole person, rather than just focusing on treatment of the disease. Holistic medicine is becoming more popular within the North American region, but our general focus stills tends to be on biomedicine.

The way that an individual understands the concept of their own explanatory model, or what their mental illness is or came from, affects the way that the individual will be treated, along with the way that they most likely live their life. These explanatory models differ between cultures and play a large role in treatment of disease. In some regards, people of certain cultures may decide not to seek treatment, or to delay treatment, based on their beliefs heritage. In an article focusing on social anxiety disorder (SAD), it was found that Asians with moderate SAD in North America tended to delay treatment for mental health problems (Hofmann, Asnaani and Hinton 2010). The article states “the reluctance of first-generation Chinese participants to seek treatment was associated with greater Chinese-heritage acculturation” (Hofmann, Asnaani and Hinton 2010). In other words, the Asian culture interfered with treatment of the mental illness. This ties in perfectly with the articles that we have focused on throughout this week. Through our specified articles, we learned that culture can play a role in types of treatment and reasoning for treatment, but this article reaches further by highlighting the fact that treatment may not even be sought, due to one’s culture. All of the articles identified clearly support that culture plays a large role in recognition and treatment of mental illness. This can include diagnosis via the explanatory model, treatment, pointed out through the articles we read in class, and lack of treatment, established through Hofmann’s article.

Hofmann, Stefan G., M.A. Anu Asnaani, and Devon E. Hinton. “Cultural Aspects in Social Anxiety and Social Anxiety Disorder.” Depression and Anxiety. The Official Journal of ADAA 27, no. 12 (December 3, 2010): 1117-127. Accessed July 15, 2016. doi:10.1002/da.20759.

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