Concept and Goal
This activity allows you to examine similarities and differences in the symptoms and prevalence rates of three major psychological disorders, schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorders. You should read the passage and then prepare the discussion questions.
Read the passage from Wayne Weiten’s Psychology Themes and Variations, 4th edition (1998), and answer the discussion questions.
Are Schizophrenia, Depression, and Bipolar Illness Similar Around the World?
The symptoms associated with schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder are largely the same across widely different societies. However, cultural variations are also seen. For example, delusions are a common symptom of schizophrenia in all cultures, but the specific delusions that people report are tied to their cultural heritage (Brislin, 1993). In technologically advanced societies, schizophrenia patients report that thoughts are being inserted into their minds through transmission from electric lines, satellites, or microwave ovens. Victims of schizophrenia in less technological societies experience the same phenomenon, but blame sorcerers or demons. Of the major disorders, symptom patterns are probably the most variable for depression. In much of Western culture, depression is experienced as a psychological problem, with symptoms such as despair, sadness, and guilt. On the other hand, in non-Western populations, and among ethnic minorities, lower-class, and educationally deprived populations in the West, depression is experienced more often as a physical problem with symptoms such as stomach pain, sleep difficulty, and weakness (Marsella, 1980). These differences presumably occur because people learn to express symptoms of psychological disorders in ways that are acceptable in their culture.
The prevalence estimates for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which both hover around 1 percent, appear to be roughly comparable across diverse cultures (Butcher, et al., 1993). This cross-cultural similarity may be attributable to the strong biological component in these disorders or to the fact that they are severe disturbances that are readily distinguished from normal behavior than milder disorders are. The prevalence rates for most other diagnostic categories vary considerably across cultures (Escobar, 1993). This variability is probably due to several factors. First, there are methodological problems in obtaining samples from different cultures that can be compared. Second, even for a universally recognized disorder, such as depression, different societies will use different cutoffs in drawing the line between normality and abnormality. Third, the environmental factors at work in specific cultures, the predominant attitudes, values, family dynamics, and sources of stress, probably foster some disorders more readily than others.
According to this passage, why are the symptoms and prevalence rates of schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar illness fairly similar?
Why do you think symptoms of depression among people in Western societies are more psychological than physical?
How does this passage about the similarities and differences in psychological disorders around the world relate to the nature (all behaviors are innate and inborn) and nurture (all behaviors are shaped by environmental experiences) debate in psychology? Explain the passage based on the nature-nurture debate.
Brislin, R. (1993). Understanding culture’s influence on behavior. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.
Butcher, J.N., Narikiyo, T., and Vitousek, K.B. (1993). Understanding abnormal behavior in cultural context. In P.B. Sutker and H.E. Adams (eds.), Comprehensive handbook of Psychopathology. New York: Plenum Press.
Escobar, J.I. (1993). Psychiatric epidemiology. In A.C. Gaw (ed.), Culture, Ethnicity, and Mental Illness. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Marcella, A. J. (1980). Depressive experience and disorders across cultures. In H.C. Triandis and J.G. Draguns (eds), Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology. Vol. 6, 237-290. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Weiten, W. (1998). Psychology themes and variations. (4th ed.), Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole.
Whittlesey, V. (2001). Diversity Activities for Psychology. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Source: Passage based on Weiten, W. (1998). Psychology themes and variations. (4th ed.), 594-595), Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole
Concept and Goal