Using your textbook and the Argosy University online library resources, research the role of cultural norms in identifying mental disorders. Based on your research, respond to the following: Why is culture an important consideration in the interview, assessment, and diagnostic process? How might your own cultural, ethnic, or family values, rules, or traditions be misinterpreted as “abnormal” by someone from a dissimilar background? Give examples in your answer. Write your initial response in 2–3 paragraphs.
Culture plays a significant role in identifying mental disorders as it shapes our understanding and interpretation of human behavior. Cultural norms provide a framework for defining what is considered normal or abnormal within a specific society or community. Mental health professionals must take into account cultural differences to ensure a culturally sensitive and accurate assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders.
The importance of culture in the interview, assessment, and diagnostic process lies in the understanding that different cultural groups may have unique beliefs, values, behaviors, and ways of expressing distress. Culture influences aspects such as the perception and expression of symptoms, the meaning attached to mental health conditions, and help-seeking behaviors. By considering culture, mental health professionals can avoid misinterpretations, misdiagnoses, and potential harm to the individual being assessed.
One example of how culture may influence the diagnostic process is the consideration of somatization. Certain cultures may express mental distress through physical symptoms due to cultural beliefs and practices. For instance, Mediterranean and Latin American cultures may exhibit psychological distress through somatic complaints such as stomachaches or headaches. If a mental health professional is unfamiliar with these cultural practices, they may overlook the underlying mental health condition and erroneously attribute the symptoms to physical causes.
Furthermore, cultural norms play a role in influencing help-seeking behaviors. In some cultures, seeking help from mental health professionals may be stigmatized, and individuals may prefer to rely on traditional healers or religious figures. Consequently, if mental health professionals are not aware of these cultural preferences, they may misinterpret the individual’s lack of engagement in therapy as lack of motivation or resistance.
When considering my own cultural, ethnic, or family values, rules, or traditions, it is possible for someone from a different background to misinterpret them as abnormal. For example, my culture emphasizes collectivism and interdependence rather than individualism and independence. This means that decision-making, especially within the family, is often influenced by the input and agreement of multiple family members. It is not uncommon for mental health professionals from individualistic cultures to perceive this as a lack of autonomy or an indicator of dependency issues. However, understanding and respecting the importance of family involvement in decision-making is crucial for providing appropriate care and support.
Additionally, the expression of emotions may vary across cultures. In some cultures, the open display of emotions, such as crying or yelling, is seen as a normative response to stress or distress. However, individuals from cultures that prioritize emotional restraint or stoicism may perceive these behaviors as excessive or abnormal. Failure to recognize cultural variations in emotional expression could potentially lead to misinterpretation and misdiagnosis of mental health conditions.
In conclusion, culture plays a vital role in identifying mental disorders as it shapes our understanding and interpretation of human behavior. Mental health professionals need to consider cultural norms in the interview, assessment, and diagnostic process to ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity. Failure to do so may result in misinterpretation, misdiagnosis, and potential harm to individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Awareness of cultural differences, beliefs, values, and practices is crucial for providing effective and culturally appropriate mental health care.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.