Whether you’re in North America, China, or the Antarctic, if you’re identified with diabetes, it’s the same kind of diabetes. If you get lung cancer, it’s not going to be a different kind of lung cancer just because you live in India. But schizophrenia can take wildly different forms depending on whether you are from Europe, Japan, Pakistan, or any other place on Earth.
Schizophrenia is a widespread disease that presents with a constellation of symptoms, so it should come as no surprise that schizophrenia’s exact characteristics differ around the world. For example, Westerners tend to experience more depressive symptoms in their disease. They’re also more prone to thought insertions and thought removals, which are delusions centered around the idea that you don’t have control of your thoughts.
For thought insertion, the delusion is that somebody or something has placed thoughts in your mind, and thought removal is just the opposite; that some other have taken ideas out of your account.
Luhrmann and colleagues speculated that the difference was due to distinct social values. Americans tend to value independence and individuality; hearing voices became an invasion, something violent by nature. But other cultures value collectivism more; this was backed up by the fact that the Ghanaian and Indian participants often heard relatives and friends talking to them, while Individuals generally heard strangers.
In keeping with these findings, another study found that Austrians had significantly extra-religious delusions than Pakistanis. Delusions of persecution were just as common among the two teams; however, Pakistanis tended to imagine their households had been the supply of the abuse more often, which is probably due to the stronger familial ties Pakistanis have in comparison with Austrians.
If anything, this research spotlight how strongly our culture contributes to our identities. An illness as profound as schizophrenia does not exist in a vacuum; it works on our minds, and our thoughts are the product of our broader cultural context.