Crazy Like Us is a book written by Ethan Watters. Through this book, Ethan explores the spread of anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Through case studies, the author explains the causes, and symptoms of Anorexia in Hong Kong, depression in Japan, post-traumatic stress disorder in Sri Lanka, and how Schizophrenia came to Zanzibar. Moreover, he explains how these disorders are prevalent in the Eastern nations due to the American influence. In addition, Ethan Watters outlines the implications of the American influence, and the urgent need to treat these illnesses in a culturally suitable framework. Ethan states that, American influence changes a lot the way many nations view these disorders, and the American mental health treatments do not work well with the cultural treatment of many nations.
Anorexia in Hong Kong
Anorexia is a life threatening eating disorder that is characterized by self-starvation, and the urge to lose weight. The obsession of losing weight and the food one eats can lead to anorexia nervosa which is a serious mental disorder. Ethan Watters opens his arguments with the emergence of anorexia in Hong Kong (Watters 16). Watters argues that before, anorexia was a rare and unknown disorder in Hong Kong until it was replaced by the American version. The Asian community has been known for having an obsession for food whereby they share large amounts of meals with family, the issue of food refusal was not in the picture. This disorder of self starvation, and the urge to lose weight was started by adolescents in distress of gaining weight more than their peers because of western influence. The adolescents were impacted by the new wave of cultural shifts, and individualism. Watters use Dr. Lee who is a researcher that focused on discovering why Hong Kong women automatically began expressing their mental distress as anorexia nervosa. According to Dr. Lee, the type of anorexia in Hong Kong was triggered by an adolescent being separated from the boyfriend, and the fear of gaining weight and this makes them not to feel hungry. Moreover, the adolescents Dr. Lee treated confessed to him that they experienced stomach upsets, blockage and fullness and so, this prevented them from eating because they did not feel hungry any more. Dr, Lee treated a number of them and all they wished for was to regain their normal weight. Dr. Lee through his research decided to find out about anorexia on his own, and he created it on himself. He did exactly what his patients had explained to him, not eating and wanting to lose weight and his hunger became easy to ignore. In his research by creating his own anorexia, Dr. Lee found out that, Anorexia in Hong Kong being spread by the western culture, and the women created the diseases on their own so as to embrace the current western culture. In addition, each woman with anorexia had her personal reasons for not eating and so, they were the causes of their own anorexia. Consequently, as many women began to starve themselves with reasons better known to them, the disorder spread all over Hong Kong and the media and reporters began to look for the description of the disease from western experts (Chan & Ma 180). According to Dr. Lee, the more the number of women suffering from anorexia increased, the more the media gave attention to the subject thus attracting the western experts. Dr, Lee believes that, anorexia took a turn in Hong Kong in 1997 (706), whereby fat phobia now became the most important reason for self starvation for many women. However, most of the patients were treated with the western diagnosis by 2007. In essence, according to Ethan Watters, the spread of American culture also contributed to the spread on anorexia in Hong Kong because, they replaced the anorexia known in Hong Kong with their own anorexia and treatments. (Watters 56). American influence introduced a form of anorexia which influenced the youth to starve in order to lose weight.
PTSD in Sri Lanka
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety or mental health disorder that develops after one has been exposed to traumatic incidents. According to Watters, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was brought to Sri Lanka through the Westerners who flocked Sri Lanka during the 2004 devastating tsunami. Watters assert that, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder came when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka because; it had nothing like PTSD before. Sri Lanka experienced a series of natural, and man made disasters which later on affected the mental health of its citizens. The tsunami caused immense psychological damage to the people as many lives were lost, and this led to the emergence and spread of PTSD. The 2003 tsunami created a deep psychological impact on the population whereby it was reported that after the tsunami, 14% to 39% of children in Sri Lanka had PTSD, and in another study, 41% of adolescents and approximately 20% of those adolescents’ mothers had PTSD 4 months after the event (Neuner, Schauer, Catani, Ruf, and Elbert 338). The western world recognized Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a condition that comes due to a traumatic experience. Watters argues that, the coping methods, and treatment given to patients with PTSD in Sri Lanka did not transcend the cultural boundaries. In addition, the war in Sri Lanka also helped in the spread of PTSD as many people were left dead, and this left the population suffer from depression. According to Neuner, Schauer, Catani, Ruf, and Elbert (340), many children who lived during the Tsunami, were affected with post traumatic stress disorder, and this highly affected their mental health. The tsunami led to the coming of many thousands of PTSD experts in Sri Lanka who now westernized the disorder and its symptoms, but the Sri Lankans refused to accept the export and were able to deal with the PTSD on their own.
Schizophrenia in Zanzibar
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that is characterized by a breakdown in thinking. Schizophrenia in Zanzibar is Ethan Watters’ third example of the export of western ideas on mental illness. Watters contrast the families that are treated traditionally, and those treated with western treatments. According to Watters, people with schizophrenia recover faster in Tanzania, Zanzibar than those in the United States (Watters 45). This is because; mental disorders are taken as US cultural products, and exported to the rest of the world. The US makes the rest of the world to believe otherwise about what they know about certain conditions. Western exports and their treatments do not go well with traditional treatments and so, traditional treatments works faster than western treatment. In addition, the western claims to treat mental illnesses yet the people with these mental illnesses have poorer outcomes in their treatment despite the fact that they are fully equipped with health care system compared to those in developing nations. Evans points out on the distortion in western ideas of importing North American mental health practices in Zanzibar yet the traditional methods works well for them (Evans 70).The people in Zanzibar cared for people with Schizophrenia, and never allowed the corrupt western ways of treatment on their patients because they were not universally helpful. American mental health gives a different view on schizophrenia from the way many people in developing nations understand.
Depression in Japan
Depression in Japan is Watters fourth, and the most fascinating example of the export of western ideas on mental illness. Depression is the greatest public issue that is facing the Japanese people. Watters explains how GlaxoSmithKline company was set out to market their anti-depressants to the Japanese people after the wide spread of depression in Japan (Watters 198). He further explains how the Glaxo Smith Kline pharmaceutical created depression in Japan so as to sell their anti-depressant drug called Paxil. The company imposed depression on the Japanese people, and they were forced to buy the Paxil drug even if the symptoms were not for depression. The company used the fact that many people in Japan suffer from depression, and through western influence many symptoms were linked to depression. The GlaxoSmithKline Company used experts to survey the Japanese culture in order to exploit the population yet, there is no evidence of a brain disease in depression as the westerners claim. According to Watters (202), the meaning and interpretation of depression was exploited and manipulated by the Western in order to fit their interests of introducing new treatments methods around the globe. The western convinced the Japanese that any negative symptom they had in their life was because of depression and they needed to take medication. They took advantage of the chemical imbalance in Japan just to market and sell their medications.
Watters insists that, the American Mental Health exported western ideas on mental illness to developing nations forgetting that, the nations have different cultures and answers to these mental conditions. In addition, the American mental health should not assume that their scientific approach of certain illnesses will be adopted worldwide because; their approach to certain disorders is absolutely different from what many people know. Zanzibar and Sri Lanka refused their conversion because it was creating more complications, instead of bringing a solution.
In conclusion, Ethan Watters book Crazy Like Us explores the spread of Anorexia in Hong Kong, depression in Japan, post-traumatic stress disorder in Sri Lanka, and how Schizophrenia came to Zanzibar. Watters’ book is an eye opener on the changing world view due to American influence. He explores how anorexia spread in Hong Kong, PTSD in Sri Lanka, and the culture and beliefs of the Sri Lankans. Watters brings out thought provoking points on the ignorance of some cases, and western exploitation due to the ignorance. According to Watters, the Western conception of certain diseases is very different from the way other nations views the conditions. He further adds that, the spread of American culture across the globe has brought a change in how people view certain disorders, and the American-style of viewing post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, schizophrenia and depression is questioning. The author makes it clear that some of the western treatments and coping methods do not work well with other cultures. According to Watters, mental health has been westernized and the theories changed.
Watters, Ethan. Crazy Like Us: the globalization of the American psyche. New York: Free Press, 2010. Print.
Lee, Sing. Anorexia nervosa in Hong Kong: a Chinese perspective. Psychological Medicine, 21.3 (1991):703-711. Print.
Chan, Z. C. Y. & Ma, J. L. C. (2004). Etiology of Anorexia Nervosa in Hong Kong: A Social Work Qualitative Inquiry. Child and Family Social Work, 9.2(2004):177-186. Print.
Evans, Juli. Schizophrenia: Living with Madness Here and in Zanzibar 1992. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 8.1(1992): 53-71. Print.
Neuner Frank, Shauer Elisabeth, Catani Claudia, Ruf Martina, and Elbert Thomas. Post-tsunami stress: a study of posttraumatic stress disorder in children living in three severely affected regions in Sri Lanka. J Trauma Stress, 19.3 (2006): 339-47. Print.