woogx006: January 2012 Archives

Psychological disorders, the subject of Chapter 15, are fascinating. I was particularly struck by information in this chapter about psychiatric diseases across cultures and recent findings in schizophrenia and autism.
Mental illnesses are universal. It was interesting to learn that different cultures have their own names for and descriptions of mental disorders. Latah, for example, is a SE Asian illness characterized by "an extreme startle reaction, followed by a loss of control, cursing, and mimicking of others' actions and speech," while Windigo, found in Native American populations, involves a "morbid state of anxiety with fears of becoming a cannibal." (Data, DSM-IV APA, 2000; Hall, 2001). Western culture also has its more common mental illnesses, such as bulimia (Keel & Klump, 2003; McCarthy, 1990).
Recent insights into schizophrenia include functional brain imaging studies (example below) showing that schizophrenic patients have less frontal lobe activation with strenuous mental activity than normal individuals (Andreasen et al., 1992; Knyazeva et al., 2008). In terms of autism, I had previously heard that US rates were rising, but was very surprised to learn that Wisconsin had a whopping 15,117% increase in autism diagnoses within a 10 year period (Rust, 2006). The textbook discussed possible causes including genetic factors and vaccines (Rutter, 2000; Rimland, 2004), although the link between autism and vaccination has recently been challenged. Lilienfeld notes that the cause of this disorder still remains a mystery.

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