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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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,750 Ratings  ·  212 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 American ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Free Press (first published December 7th 2009)
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Thomas
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
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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...
“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” 4 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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