Depression: Ethno Psychological Themes

Simon Dein*

Depression: Ethno Psychological Themes

In this paper, I have focused upon the ethno psychology of depression. The term “ethno psychology” refers to indigenous representations of mind, body, emotion and self. In the past two decades, anthropologists, psychologists and psychiatrists have become increasingly interested in the role of culture for the expression and experience of depression.

I shall argue that the constellation of ethno psychological features, deeply rooted in their culture make up of culture members, influences the ways in which individuals experience and express depression, as it does for all emotions.

The literature pertaining to culture and depression is still dominated by studies based
upon Western-based diagnostic criteria and examines the incidence and prevalence rates of this
disorder. While anthropologists tend to view depression as an affect, psychiatrists view it as an
affective disorder. Keyes1 asserts that biomedicine is unique as it deals with illness by interpreting experience without reference to the problem of suffering.

Many researchers have noted that the aetiology, expression and maintenance of depressive disorders varies cross-culturally. Culture influences the sources of distress, the form of illness experience, symptomatology, the interpretation of symptoms, forms of coping, the social response to distress and help-seeking. Furthermore it provides a lexicon of affect, rules for displaying emotions, lay theories of emotion and strategies for managing dysphoria.

Yet, both paradigms have their limitations. Biomedical approaches gloss over the differences in meaning of depression across culture by defining depression a priori. While useful in
understanding the experience of depression, this ethnographic approach typically draws on small numbers which limits generalizability.

Anthropol Open J.2016; 1(1): 3-10. doi: 10.17140/ANTPOJ-1-102