How crazy it can be? – a book review

Title: Crazy like us: the globalisation of the American psyche

Author: Ethan Watters

Free Press: 2010

Yes, it’s a quite crazy book title. America globalises lots of things, its Hollywood culture, high tech goods, democracy, etc…  But this book talks about illness, mental illness that America, along with other western countries, exports to other countries globally. 

The author argues that notions of mental diseases, such as anorexia, Post Traumatic  Stress Disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia, are uniquely American. The mega-marketing of depression, has prevailed around the world, like the illness itself, on such a scale and speed, that no one knows where it will end.

In Hong Kong, for example, a patient was treated for anorexia who didn’t intend to lose weight or become beautiful by starving herself. The patients wanted to eat but were not able to which didn’t fit into western notion of anorexia suffers. In Sri Lanka western psychology counsellors flooded into the tsunami areas in order to help with PTSD after such a great natural disaster. They sent out a list of syndromes for local volunteers to tick off and check but most victims had no idea what those psychologists were looking for as the checklist wasn’t relevant to their cultures. 

The author examined these cases and realised that cultures, religions, faith, beliefs, customs, personal and social experiences are unique and useful in mental treatment, but have gone missing in western notions of mental illness. The western psychology is too busy with expert notions about mental illness to define grief and suffering. The homogenisation to mental health and healing also goes along with multi-million-dollar campaign by one of the world’s biggest drug companies to make mental illness desperately rely upon drugs made by it.

The author presents some cases found around the world and drops this shocking bomb to warn us the danger of not only human psyche itself but the devastating consequence of globalising mental illness.