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Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche
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Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,622 Ratings  ·  204 Reviews
It is well known that American culture is a dominant force at home and abroad; our exportation of everything from movies to junk food is a well-documented phenomenon. But is it possible America's most troubling impact on the globalizing world has yet to be accounted for? In "Crazy Like Us," Ethan Watters reveals that the most devastating consequence of the spread of Americ ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Free Press (first published December 7th 2009)
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Thomas
Sep 16, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it
A wonderful book for those interested in how culture influences mental health. Ethan Watters crafts a strong argument against how the western world's imperialism dismisses other people's diverse lived experiences, medicalizing their struggles in ways that do more harm than good. He writes in-depth about four compelling case examples: the rise of anorexia in Hong Kong, the wave that brought PTSD to Sri Lanka, the shifting nature of schizophrenia in Zanzibar, and the mega-marketing of depression i ...more
matt
Feb 15, 2010 matt rated it it was ok
Kudos to my friends on goodreads who feel inspired enough to write full-fledged reviews; I simply can't muster the energy.
However, this book enraged me in a way few do and I feel compelled to share at least some of my thoughts. Watters caught my attention with the pot-shots he threw at the DSM in the NYT magazine earlier this year and I approached the book with cautious optimism. "Crazy Like Us" follows along the same lines as his initial article, providing four examples of what anyone who has
...more
Kater Cheek
Jan 25, 2011 Kater Cheek rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of books about psychology and mental illness, but this book took what I already knew to a new level. It discusses four different illnesses in four different cultures: anorexia in Hong Kong, schizophrenia in Zanzibar, PTSD in Sri Lanka, and Depression in Japan.

One of the fascinating premises promoted by this book is that when Western psychologists describe a typical western mental illness to another culture, their incidence of that illness morph into a version closer to ours. I don't
...more
Kate
Jan 27, 2011 Kate rated it it was ok
Well, this was certainly interesting. From studying anthropology to working in international public health to studying psych nursing, this is right up my alley. I appreciate some of what he is trying to say, in that transcultural treatment options are often not adequately tailored to each new specific culture. To some degree, I also believe that mental illness is culturally determined, or at least expressed in the particular symptom pool of a time and place. But I also have seen that medication ...more
Anna
Oct 29, 2016 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Crazy Like Us’ is the most fascinating book I’ve ever read about mental illness, and probably one of the best books I’ve read this year. I thought it would be a tough read, but found myself utterly caught up. The writing is precise, thoughtful, humane, and erudite. Watters’ thesis is that Western notions of mental illness are being exported to Africa and Asia, for intertwined reasons of profit and philanthropy, and this is changing the very nature of mental illness in the countries concerned. T ...more
Liz
Jan 22, 2011 Liz rated it really liked it
So it's basically pop psychology/anthropology and as such lacks a certain depth. However, this is an interesting and convincing book about the cultural specificity of mental illness and the imperialism of a specifically Western, radically individualist, medical model of mental suffering. I've been pretty persuaded by the idea of symptom pools (that each culture has its own pool of legible ways to express psychic distress, subconsciously taken up by sufferers) since I first read about them in 200 ...more
Lynne
Jan 14, 2011 Lynne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health, history
A very readable and very interesting read (I also heard the author in a radio interview you can find here: http://www.madnessradio.net/madness-r...). It had never occurred to me that HOW mental illness and distress expresses itself is very tied in to one's culture, so that the same event (a flood, a death, whatever) requires different treatment, ritual, etc depending on one's culture. The USA has pushed western psychiatry's (and psychology's) theories all over the world, but done next to nothing ...more
Lorin Kleinman
Jul 30, 2010 Lorin Kleinman rated it it was amazing


A woman tries to walk across a room, but collapses. Another suddenly goes blind, for no obvious physical reason. Victorian hysteria, clearly a product of a time when women lived highly constricted, repressed lives. A veteran suffering from PTSD, on the other hand: doubtless a real disease, immutable, applicable in all situations and cultures. Not so, says Ethan Watters, who convincingly argues that all mental illnesses are circumscribed and molded by the cultures in which they occur. A person wh
...more
Bryan Kibbe
Feb 20, 2011 Bryan Kibbe rated it it was amazing
This book offers a fascinating series of accounts of how Western (i.e. American, European) understandings of mental health have and are being exported to cultures throughout the world, often in ways that are profoundly at odds with deep cultural practices and traditions that understand the mind in fundamental different ways. Watters in engaging narrative form, carefully chronicles the rise of anorexia in Tokyo, PTSD in Sri Lanka, schizophrenia in Zanzibar, and depression in Japan. At the heart o ...more
Sehar  Moughal
Jan 26, 2016 Sehar Moughal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wish-list
A few days ago, a peculiar thought entered my mind: I wanted to pursue psychiatry after I became a psychologist. It was a scary thought since it would take me another 9 years. I needed to know that I was not being irrational, so I went to the medical school and browsed the section for a good psychiatry book. Lo and behold, I found this GEM of a book.
Watters discusses the globalization (colonization) of four mental illnesses: the emergence of anorexia in Hong Kong, the introduction of PTSD in Sr
...more
Marya
Feb 08, 2010 Marya rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
When you first read about the Western trauma groups competing with each other for Sri Lankan tsunami patients (telling children in one camp not to play with kids in "the other therapy group" for fear of ruining their own progress), you can't think that highly of Western psychologists and their ilk. But that would be missing the point.

Watters is trying to introduce a new way of thinking (pun!) about psychology. To Watters, mental illness is like a language. The individual unconsciously picks sym
...more
Alex Templeton
May 30, 2010 Alex Templeton rated it it was amazing
This book reminds me of why I enjoy reading, and why I miss college: there are so many fascinating ideas out there, just there for the taking, if we are only exposed to them! This fascinating mix of anthropology and psychology examines how American notions of mental illness are beginning to shape their counterparts around the world. The idea that there are differing conceptions of mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia around the world is fascinating; it makes one's head kind of e ...more
Ethan Gilsdorf
Making the rest of the world crazy

By Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe Correspondent | January 24, 2010

Americans are a generous people. We donate riches to needy countries. We send our troops abroad. We have exported some of history’s most influential cultural, scientific, and social inventions: democracy, fast food, and Britney Spears.

Whether that generosity is helpful to other nations is another question. And so it goes with mental health. According to Ethan Watters in “Crazy Like Us: The Globaliza
...more
Emily
May 26, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
About ten years ago, I read an article in the Atlantic called A New Way to Be Mad, which asked whether people learning of a psychological diagnosis can actually make it contagious. The article discusses what is now known as body integrity identity disorder (people who want to amputate their limbs) and discussion of it on the Internet. Later, I read Fasting Girls which asks similar questions about Victorian sufferers of anorexia nervosa. Both pieces edged towards the idea that mental illness mani ...more
Bobby
Dec 03, 2012 Bobby rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Rather hit-or-miss writing. Out of four major chapters, I found one very well written and quite convincing, another one pretty good, and two rather weak (especially because the author's conclusions in these two chapters seem to be based on the work of one or two individuals). I do agree with his central point--that cultural bound syndromes exist all around the globe, especially in the field of mental health, and we need to be careful in exporting our definitions of mental illness to other places ...more
Diheng Zhang
Oct 08, 2015 Diheng Zhang rated it it was ok
In a psychology major's stand point, this book is ridiculously unprofessional. The cases are presented in a misleading way, yet not sure whether it is done intentionally or not. First, the first case presented about the girl from hongkong, is a classical case of Somatization Disorder. I saw TONS of cases like this in mainland China. Second, the main argument is not even logically supported by the distorted cases he presented. Not even close. Of cause mental health issues emerge differently in di ...more
Alyse
May 06, 2011 Alyse rated it really liked it
I think this book is a better read for those who have background in psychology/social work/counseling/etc. more so than for those who don't. It would still make sense if you had no idea about anything going in, but it makes several references to existentialism, Cartesian ideas, etc etc - things laymen don't tend to know. BUT! As someone WITH background, this book is good. I tend to think I'm pretty culturally sensitive, but this book points out things I hadn't really thought too much about until ...more
Chelsea Owens
Jan 10, 2010 Chelsea Owens rated it really liked it
As someone embarking on a career as a clinical psychologist, this read definitely proved to be interesting and informative. While it's true that the Western world of psychology/psychiatry tends to disregard the nuances of cultural and environmental influence on social structures and the human mind...I found Water's indignance towards Western mental health treatment to be a bit annoying and redundant.

The best lesson any mental health practitioner can glean from this book is to administer sensiti
...more
Sandra
May 19, 2016 Sandra rated it really liked it
Very interesting book discussing "the idea that people from different cultures might have fundamentally different psychological reactions to a traumatic event is hard for Americans to grasp.(p.71)". Divided into four main sections the author explores how American culture has influenced the concepts of mental health worldwide - anorexia, PTSD, Schizophrenia, and Depression. My favourite section is on PTSD and the assumption of thousands of mental health workers who travelled to Sri Lanka after th ...more
Ryan
Dec 07, 2012 Ryan rated it it was amazing
The author, Ethan Watters, brings to light the study of cross-cultural mental health. Symptoms of mental health differ across cultures but the treatments for local versions are being supplanted by the US treatments. This is not only ineffective, but it is actually influencing the mental health of the other cultures. From the data, it seems clear that the US has exported anorexia, depression, PTSD (my personal least favorite), and more along with our "treatments" of the same.

I'm reminded of "One
...more
Jess
Mar 09, 2010 Jess rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully skeptical look at the well-intentioned but imperialistic spread of Western theories of psychology.
This is an excellent book: extremely engaging, very well researched and, in spite of it's dour and grumbling voice, it is not without hope. The author, Ethan Watters, makes his position clear at the outset : "The premise of this book is that the virus is us." But Watters later confesses that his wife is a psychologist, and the psychologists, therapists, and researchers he interviews a
...more
JoEllen
Mar 24, 2014 JoEllen rated it it was amazing
If you work in or are interested in psychiatry or mental health, READ THIS BOOK! This insightful read will make you ask bigger picture questions about the field, about how the work we do and the words we use have a far-reaching impact. I've never considered how much we define mental health diagnoses and treatments based on the terms of our own culture. But context is crucial. Always. Even well-meaning actions can lead to inadequate or inappropriate treatment, worsening existing health issues or ...more
Linda Quinton-Burr
Jan 27, 2013 Linda Quinton-Burr rated it it was amazing
This author is right on when it comes to mental illness. The DSMIV (now V) tells the whole world what to look for and what symptoms or history must be present for a certain diagnosis. Clinicians look for those symptoms and history in order to pigeonhole a patient. It is badf enough that this is done within the culture that mandated the DSMV, but cross culturally it is totally absurd. Yet as we export our t.v. shows and our music groups and our numerous other "must haves," we also export our psyc ...more
Charity
Jul 03, 2010 Charity rated it liked it
Shelves: stopped-reading
The idea is that diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses are neither static nor universal. They change with time and by culture. By applying the DSM globally, the United States is influencing how mental health is viewed and treated in other cultures, as well as interfering with the ways these cultures have developed to deal with mental health issues. The premise was interesting enough, but I just couldn't stay interested. I'm glad I read what I did, though, because this issue is addressed in th ...more
Vivien
Jan 03, 2011 Vivien rated it liked it
I found this book interesting in its concept but there a came a point where I felt like the author really was beating a dead horse and did not need to keep repeating his main point over & over. I have actually talked about this book quite a few times in my conversations recently on mental health & overmedication so despite the lulls in this book, I do recommend it.
Bill
Feb 22, 2010 Bill rated it it was amazing
As a psychiatrist I have had a hard enough time keeping up my my field in my own country and often ignored cross-cultural work. This book changed my opinion about that. If you have any interest in mental health, I suggest you read this. You might think twice about sponsoring mental health "rescue" efforts overseas.
Gretchen
Jan 27, 2010 Gretchen rated it it was ok
This book was okay. It was interesting to see his global, transient perspective and it definitely made me think a lot more about mental illness and how ideas about it are spread, but at times the writing felt more anecdotal than authentic. Which I know is what sells books, but it was still annoying.
megan
Jan 10, 2010 megan marked it as to-read
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/mag...

Wow! This book will be coming out the end of January, so I haven't read it yet, but the article in the NYT was fascinating! Can't wait to get ahold of it!
Morgan Dhu
Jan 18, 2015 Morgan Dhu rated it really liked it

Ethan Watters, Crazy Like Us

In Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, journalist Ethan Watters investigates the cultural meanings of mental illness from an anthropological perspective and traces the ongoing superimposition of American theories of psychology on other systems of understanding the mind.

"Over the past thirty years, we Americans have been industriously exporting our ideas about mental illness. Our definitions and treatments have become the international standards. A
...more
Jimmy Niggles
https://youtu.be/Lwd-OG0_xGk

I honestly thought this book was addressing the SJW as a causation for mostly everything that the author's meta interrupting this book and with other books in the library, with questioning why he wrote it and seeing a lot of discourse or policies local and abroad I think he's saying the SJW are more affected in the disability field and in an opprobrium noesis diagnosis or with a person getting treated than is covered with the policies and relationships of fake news th
...more
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Ethan Watters is a free lance journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Discover, Men's Journal, Spin, Details, and Wired. A frequent contributor to NPR, Watters' work appeared in the 2007 and 2008 Best American Science and Nature Writing. He co-founded the San Francisco Writers Grotto, a work space for local artists. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and children.
More about Ethan Watters...

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“Because our culture so highly values an illusion of self-control and control of circumstance, we become abject when contemplating mentation that seems more changeable, less restrained and less controllable, more open to outside influence, than we imagine our own to be. — Judi McGruder” 5 likes
“Even anthropologists, who diligently train themselves to be nonjudgmental observers of cultural differences, have trouble when it comes to recognizing and allowing for cultural differences in emotions. Because our emotions come into our consciousness unbidden and often surprise us with their intensity, we often assume that they are not influenced by cultural cues or social scripts. But with careful study, anthropologists have learned that emotions are not like muscle reflexes; rather, they are communications with deep and sometimes obscure meanings. Cultures differ not only in their response to specific events... but also in more global ways.” 1 likes
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