One would think that the instance of mental disorders would occur similarly across various cultures. At least, that is the hypothesis when mental health issues are not greatly distinguished from physical ailments.
There is a popular school of thought that says disorders such as anorexia and depression are similar to health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure, except for one presents itself in the mind, while the other shows up in the body.
According to information found at Psychology Today, however, doctors and clinicians residing outside the Western world hold a different view and assert that mental disorders manifest themselves very differently depending on the culture. Since physical ailments do not change across cultures, this would imply that, mental disorders are not on the same plain with disorders that affect the body.
Even those who penned the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) have had to make updates to the document, reflecting the fact that mental disorders are often highly affected by one’s cultural surroundings.
Societies develop different models of illnesses based on their environment, including factors such as morals, religious beliefs, and science, which shape their definition of what that illness actually is. This is significant because the symptoms people exhibit have been shown to be highly affected by their cultural filter and understanding of that mental disorder.
Though this process influences some disorders more than others, people have been known to exhibit like symptoms to those experienced by others around them. This explains why certain mental illnesses seem to come and go as cultural nuances morph and change over time. Interestingly, back in the day of Sigmund Freud, hysteria was a mental disorder suffered by many. Today, however, it has nearly vanished and instead we see widespread diagnoses of multiple personality disorders and anorexia.
The conclusion, then, is that while mental issues are not completely unlike physical ones, they are certainly very complex. Therefore, experts caution against making generalizations equating such infirmities as high blood pressure with disorders like depression.