Americanization of Mental Illness

The New York Times has an interesting article on the Americanization of Mental Illness. What I find fascinating is this part, “What is being missed, Lee and others have suggested, is a deep understanding of how the expectations and beliefs of the sufferer shape their suffering. ”

Further, I have to consider this, “This does not mean that these illnesses and the pain associated with them are not real, or that sufferers deliberately shape their symptoms to fit a certain cultural niche. It means that a mental illness is an illness of the mind and cannot be understood without understanding the ideas, habits and predispositions ā€” the idiosyncratic cultural trappings ā€” of the mind that is its host.”

My question is can ANY illness (not just mental illness) really be understood without the cultural trappings and beliefs of the individuals. Can the disease ever be separate from the individual or is each disease personalized based on experiences, expectations and culture?

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