Cultural syndromes: Socially learned but real

Marion Godman

Abstract


While some of mental disorders due to emotional distress occur cross-culturally, others seem to be much more bound to particular cultures. In this paper, I propose that many of these “cultural syndromes” are culturally sanctioned responses to overwhelming negative emotions. I show how tools from cultural evolution theory can be employed for understanding how the syndromes are relatively confined to and retained within particular cultures. Finally, I argue that such an account allows for some cultural syndromes to be or become mental disorders and also steers clear of some of the anti-realist trappings associated with a social constructivism of cultural syndromes.

Keywords: cultural syndromes, mental disorders, emotional distress, cultural evolution, social learning, social constructivism.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [Updated on September 23, 2016].

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