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Review of "Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche" -- Christopher Lane, Psychology Today

I share, below, an excerpt from the review at caption.


"We are flattening the landscape of the human psyche," warns Ethan Watters in Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche. "We are engaged in the grand project of Americanizing the world's understanding of the human mind."

A bracing, thought-provoking read, Crazy Like Us is timely in light of current concerns about DSM-5, the soon-to-be revised fifth edition of the world's diagnostic bible of mental health. Drawing on several fascinating case studies, including of eating disorders in Hong Kong and of models of schizophrenia in Zanzibar, Watters argues that the model of mental illness that the DSM advances has started to permeate and change how other cultures think about suffering, to the point of redrawing their social and psychological landscapes.

Is that a good thing? Might some elements of uniformity be useful, in pointing to shared patterns of distress? Or is a loss of cultural self-understanding the almost unavoidable outcome? In absorbing but troubling accounts of how PTSD diagnoses have come to proliferate in Sri Lanka and what the "mega-marketing of depression" has done for mental health diagnoses in Japan, Watters voices concern that well-meaning but mistaken Western psychiatrists have helped to export their conceptions of mental illness around the world. The outcome, according to Watters, is closer to medicalization—and banalization—than a helpful collation of knowledge and understanding….

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