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Archive for January 2010

Note:  this is about DARK chocolate (preferably organic) and not it’s unhealthy cousin milk chocolate. :) 

The “Chocolate Cure” for Emotional Stress

Released: 1/22/2010 1:00 PM EST
Source: American Chemical Society (ACS)


Newswise — There may well be another important reason for giving your sweetheart sweets for Valentine’s Day besides the traditional romantic one: The “chocolate cure” for emotional stress is now getting new support from a clinical trial published online in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research. It found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed. Everyone’s favorite treat also partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances.

Sunil Kochhar and colleagues note growing scientific evidence that antioxidants and other beneficial substances in dark chocolate may reduce risk factors for heart disease and other physical conditions. Studies also suggest that chocolate may ease emotional stress. Until now, however, there was little evidence from research in humans on exactly how chocolate might have those stress-busting effects.

In the study, scientists identified reductions in stress hormones and other stress-related biochemical changes in volunteers who rated themselves as highly stressed and ate dark chocolate for two weeks. “The study provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40 grams [1.4 ounces] during a period of 2 weeks is sufficient to modify the metabolism of healthy human volunteers,” the scientists say.

“Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects”

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only.

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The entire writeup below  is an unedited excerpt from Deepka Chopra writings, which can be seen in their entirety at the following website: .  I thought I would share it with you because its message is so enlightening.

“Monday, January 18, 2010  – by Deepak Chopra

There is a long tradition, both East and West, about sacred words. We don’t resort to that kind of thing very much in modern life. If you are a devout Catholic you repeat the rosary, and in many sorts of Buddhist and Hindu meditations a mantra is repeated over and over. There are two reasons for this, usually. One is that the repeated words go directly to God, as prayers do. The other is that repetition fills the mind with a deeper intention that can create a good effect.

I wonder if it isn’t time to consider how words can help to heal. I’ve been fascinated for a long time about how to update traditional spiritual practices, and this one is especially promising.

What can a mere word do to heal?

In ordinary life words can be incredibly powerful, creating instantaneous, often dramatic changes in mind and body. Think of the difference between hearing the words “You’re hired” and “You’re fired.” How many lives have been changed by “I love you”? Yet we actually know very little about how to consciously employ the effect that a single word can have.

Let me make some suggestions for you to ponder:

Withhold harsh words: Being honest doesn’t mean being brutal. In the name of telling the truth, we’ve all heard — and said — things we’re sorry were ever uttered. It’s worth remembering that every cell in your body is eavesdropping on the brain, and when you feel hurt or shocked by what you hear, the same shock is occurring to hundreds of billions of cells.

I became a doctor just on the cusp of a big change in this regard. It used to be that physicians hardly ever told fatally ill patients that they were dying, often withholding even the diagnosis. (When the last emperor of Japan died, he was not told his diagnosis — the old practice still holds in other cultures.) It was thought that receiving bad news could hasten a person’s death and impair his chances of recovery. This effect is known as nocebo, the reverse of placebo. In essence, your body metabolized bad news and becomes sicker, or it metabolizes good news and starts to heal.

Today, we believe it is only ethical to give patients full disclosure about their illness, and on the whole that is the right thing to do. But it doesn’t erase the nocebo effect. Leaving medicine aside, consider withholding harsh, harmful truths in daily life. There is no reason to discourage a child, for example, by saying hurtful things.

It’s well known in psychology that descriptive statements (such as “you’re lazy, you can’t be trusted, you’ll never be as smart as your sister,” etc.) make a much deeper impression than prescriptive statements (such as “pick up your room, remember to come home on time, be nice to your sister” etc.) Sometimes a single derogatory sentence from a parent or close friend can remain stuck in the brain for life, serving as a toxic seed that grows into a belief that one will never be good enough, smart enough, or beautiful enough. It’s much harder to remove these seeds than not to plant them in the first place.

Words that heal: Besides holding back on harsh and derogatory words, saying words that heal really works. Offering reassurance in an anxious situation settles people. Reminding someone that they are loved, respected, and valued should be a habit. Such words serve to bond two people together at a deep level if the words are backed up with simple, sincere, believable emotion — not over-stated emotion but natural feeling. We tend to be shy about exposing ourselves emotionally, but only if you try can you gain the benefit.

Then there are words we say only to ourselves, silent words of healing. In the East there are thousands of such formulas, many gathered under the loose term of mantra, that are repeated in order to infuse the mind with their good effect. You can’t get much effect from repeating a word like love, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness when your mind is agitated or filled with the flotsam of everyday life. But if you deepen your awareness through meditation, which brings one’s attention to a level of silence beneath the surface static, then healing words can have quite a strong effect.

It is taught that healing words, when said at a subtle level of the mind, can do several things. They can purify the mind of negative thoughts by introducing a more positive effect (such as replacing “It’s my fault” with “Blame won’t help anybody”). A healing word can bring comfort; it can add a positive element to your surroundings. It can improve your mood and the overall tone of your demeanor, which others will notice and take heed of.

I’m suggesting that healing words need to play a more important role in our lives. This is a vast territory worth exploring. As a society, we’ve become experts at words that definitely don’t heal: gossip, cynicism, skepticism, accusation, partisan wrangling, smear campaigns, and character assassination. As a result, we know all about the bad effects of such words. Why not consider the positive effect of saying words that work in the opposite way?”

Deepak Chopra is the author of over 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his most recent, “Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul,” available now at To follow him on Twitter, go to

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It doesn’t…it does not prevent dental carries and is so toxic that it is forbidden in infant formulas. At this point in time only the UK, USA and Canada still advocate the use of fluoridation …142 North American cities and most of the European Union have banned it. 

Fluoride use began in the Gulags(prison camps)under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and then by the Nazis: this behavioral numbing chemical in their water kept prisoners complacent and placid. 

Illnesses caused include: immune suppression, bone cancer, leukemia, brain tumors, pineal gland calcification, neurological damage, increased dental caries, mottled teeth, osteoporosis, reproductive and hormonal problems. Combined with aluminum salts, fluoride is associated with increased neurological damage, behavioral changes and toxic neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease. 

FluoriTe is a naturally occurring mineral; fluoriDe is toxic waste by-product of aluminum smelting and synthetic fertilizer production.  Manufacturers’ warnings clearly state it’s derived from phosphate fertilizer, is a corrosive poison regardless of concentration, and is a contaminated with arsenic, a known carcinogen., It is used in many types of pest control products (rat poison), in pharmaceutical drugs which have been taken off the market because the fluoride in them killed people, and is still found in diet sweeteners, some soda pops, infant formulas and toothpaste.

The international medical, dental, and epidemiological literature provides overwhelming proof it is a major health hazard. Professor Albert Schatz, Ph.D. (Microbiology), discoverer of streptomycin and Nobel Prize Winner stated:  “Fluoridation is the greatest fraud that has ever been perpetrated and it has been perpetrated on more people than any other fraud has.” 

If you’re bathing and drinking fluoridated water, talk to your Mayor. 


 Grace Joubarne, CCHt, MH, HP is a Certified Hypnotherapist with offices in Ottawa,Belleville Ontario Canada.  info@ or 613-422-7027

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IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome arises out of a disruption in the rhythmic impulses of smooth muscle in the bowel.  Pain and cramps arise when two portions of bowel close to each other both are stimulate to contract and the portion of bowel in between distends.  Causes may include life trauma, post-infectious state, genetic/familial factors, and possibly even certain pain relief medications.  

IBS, which affects more women than men, is experienced as a cluster of symptoms including bouts of constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. 

 Mayo clinic Proceedings, 2005 Review of Hypnosis in Contemporary Medicine Gastroenterology stated:  Patients with irritable bowel syndrome had significant improvements in well-being, bowel habits, distention symptoms and pain, with no relapses at 18-month follow-up. 

  The National Health Service in the United Kingdom established its first hypnotherapy unit, with six therapists on staff dedicated to treatment of IBS and other GI disorders with Hypnotherapy. evaluation of the effectiveness of the treatment among the first 250 patients in the unit clearly demonstrated hypnotherapy remains an extremely effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and should prove more cost-effective then drugs. 

American Journal of Gastroenterology Nov O2/Feb 2003: Vol 17-6 – Vol 18 No 1 stated that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for IBS. 

Research since the 1980s has consistently shown that due to it’s cost-effectiveness, long-lasting symptom relief and gentleness, hypnotherapy should be the treatment of choice for IBS. 

I have specialized Hypnotherapy training in IBS so don’t hesitate to contact me for more information. 

  (send your questions c/o

Grace Joubarne, CCHt, MH, HP is a Certified Hypnotherapist with offices in Ottawa and Bancroft.  Contact me at: or 613-422-7027

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 Highly refined sugars and carbohydrates, found in virtually all foods in grocery stores and fast-food outlets enter the bloodstream quickly and produce rapid fluctuations in blood glucose levels. 

According to Alan Greene, MD, giving your child a breakfast containing fiber (berries, bananas, whole-grain cereal, etc.) instead of sugary cereals will improve behavior, learning and attention span. Ditto for lunch and treats. 

Sugar is affecting your children’s  behavior, health, and emotions if they:

• have crying jags

• go from charming to moody

• exhibit low self-esteem even though he or she is smart, skilled, and capable

• seem to feel alone, isolated

• want sweet foods all the time

• have meltdowns or a very short fuse

• often behave impulsively

• act restless

• tend to be a motor-mouth

• have a hard time paying attention

• have lots of allergies and/or wet the bed

• have persistent ear infections

• have a weight issue and/or diabetes

• come from school exhausted. 

The sugar addicted child feels inadequate, overwhelmed, low self-esteem, victimized and takes things personally. 

After being weaned off one of the most highly addictive substances in our food supply, your child will think clearly, be able to focus, feel confident, self-loved, in control, motivated, enthusiastic. 

Not only is sugar not nutritious or a ‘food’, it  actually leaches vitamins and minerals from the body to digest it…thus you’ll starve faster on water and sugar then on water alone!!  Combined with the hidden additives in the food he eats, it’s deadly. 


Grace Joubarne, CCHt, MH, HP is a Certified Hypnotherapist with offices in Ottawa and Bancroft. Contact: or 613-422-7027

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  David Suzuki (Oct99): “When [corporate] scientists say these products [Genetically Engineered foods] are safe, they are either stupid or lying.” Independent scientists (2005) proved our gut cannot process this genetically altered food, now responsible for horrific new diseases such as Morgellon, soaring cancer, IBS, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia rates and the kill-off of 30% of Thailand’s bees. 

Pigs, deer, raccoons, mice, rats —none will eat GE grains or beans. 94% of Canadians do not want GE foods …yet, 80% of all processed foods contain indigestible GE foods—without our knowledge … scorpion genes in tomatoes, fish genes in strawberries, bacterial genes in soya and corn, human and frog genes in potatoes.   

Monsanto, et al, dedicated to feeding us GE foods also specialize in pesticides, herbicides and drugs. Pharmaceuticals profit as their pesticides and frankenfoods sicken us, deplete the soil, use 10x more pesticides with very low crop yields. 

European banned GE food, so Canada lost its canola export industry. Western Canada now faces the GE- super weeds predicted.  

From 1980 our taxes subsidized GE companies ($700 million annually); our government refuses to require labeling of GE Foods. 

Research conclusively shows:

* GE foods adversely affect the immune system, pancreas, reproductive system, brain, thymus and ovaries; the residual pesticides and herbicides can trigger cancer and endocrine diseases and promote antibiotic resistance;

* Chemicals connected with GE crops further degrade the soil, reduce key nutrients, lead to increased allergic disease, promote emergence of new viruses and the extinction of entire eco systems.

* GE pharmaceuticals have uses for biological warfare, (eg. virus-bacteria of Gulf War Syndrome). 

Send questions to: 

Grace Joubarne, CCHt, MH, HP is a Certified Hypnotherapist with offices in Ottawa and Bancroft. Contact me: or 613-422-7027

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GracePlace Wellness Hypnotherapy & Counseling Office

GracePlace Wellness Hypnotherapy & Counseling is proud to announce the opening of a satellite office in Belleville, Ontario to provide clients of Central Ontario easy access to an all-natural, self-help modality of healing from emotional issues that may be preventing their lives from being as productive as they desire.  The office is located in the Pinnale Property Management building at 200 Dundas Street East, Belleville.

There are no drop-ins.  All persons interested in this Belleville  hypnotherapy service should call GracePlace Wellness founder Grace Joubarne at her Ottawa office, for a free  telephone consultation and to book an appointment.  Anyone interested in resolving their emotional issues and fears or in managing chronic pain or weight are encouraged to call her at 1-888-390-3553 (toll-free) and she will return the call to save you long distance charges.  In the alternative, you are encouraged to view her website at  for all the information you made need, including frequently asked questions, signed testimonials and contact information.

 Grace Joubarne is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with specialized certification in such issues as IBS.  Her credentials are readily available for your review at the above noted website.  You are invited to visit her blog at where you will find a whole host of valuable information on what to avoid and how to stay well.

 Grace ‘s main office is located at 279 Columbus Ave, Ottawa and in 2009 she opened a part/time office in Belleville, ON to facilitate the recovery to wellness of those Belleville area residents who found the trip to Ottawa too difficult.  By bringing hypnotherapy to smaller towns, Grace feels she is making it possible for more people to easily access drug-free health care and therefore IBS and other chronic pain sufferers find it very convenient not to have to endure a long car drive. 

Hypnotherapy is fast becoming the first choice in health care for those recovering from emotional issues and such physical issues as chronic pain, IBS and Fibromyalgia.  People experiencing stress, frustration, anger, low self-worth, sexual dysfunction and most normal emotions associated with everyday living can now avail themselves of a self-help modality that honours their spirit and assists their mind and bodies to recover in drug-free, diagnosis-free ways. 

Hypnotherapy can also assist you with unwanted habits and addictions in a dignified, thoughtful and mindful way, helping to ensure you reach your goals.  Hypnotherapy helps to improve study and learning, exam taking, sports performance and relationship building.

Grace is offering a FREE 15-20 minute telephone consultation….call 1-888-390-3553.

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This is a fascinating read as to how cultures which had previously experienced little or none of the mental ilness issues we face today, are now becoming programmed to believe that ordinary feelings of every day living are ‘mental illness’, just as was done throughout North America in the last 50 years…..

The Americanization of Mental Illness 

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
By ETHAN WATTERS  Published: January 8, 2010 

AMERICANS, particularly if they are of a certain leftward-leaning, college-educated type, worry about our country’s blunders into other cultures. In some circles, it is easy to make friends with a rousing rant about the McDonald’s near Tiananmen Square, the Nike factory in Malaysia or the latest blowback from our political or military interventions abroad. For all our self-recrimination, however, we may have yet to face one of the most remarkable effects of American-led globalization. We have for many years been busily engaged in a grand project of Americanizing the world’s understanding of mental health and illness. We may indeed be far along in homogenizing the way the world goes mad.

This unnerving possibility springs from recent research by a loose group of anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists. Swimming against the biomedical currents of the time, they have argued that mental illnesses are not discrete entities like the polio virus with their own natural histories.

These researchers have amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that mental illnesses have never been the same the world over (either in prevalence or in form) but are inevitably sparked and shaped by the ethos of particular times and places. In some Southeast Asian cultures, men have been known to experience what is called amok, an episode of murderous rage followed by amnesia; men in the region also suffer from koro, which is characterized by the debilitating certainty that their genitals are retracting into their bodies. Across the fertile crescent of the Middle East there is zar, a condition related to spirit-possession beliefs that brings forth dissociative episodes of laughing, shouting and singing. 

The diversity that can be found across cultures can be seen across time as well. In his book “Mad Travelers,” the philosopher Ian Hacking documents the fleeting appearance in the 1890s of a fugue state in which European men would walk in a trance for hundreds of miles with no knowledge of their identities. The hysterical-leg paralysis that afflicted thousands of middle-class women in the late 19th century not only gives us a visceral understanding of the restrictions set on women’s social roles at the time but can also be seen from this distance as a social role itself — the troubled unconscious minds of a certain class of women speaking the idiom of distress of their time. 

“We might think of the culture as possessing a ‘symptom repertoire’ — a range of physical symptoms available to the unconscious mind for the physical expression of psychological conflict,” Edward Shorter, a medical historian at the University of Toronto, wrote in his book “Paralysis: The Rise and Fall of a ‘Hysterical’ Symptom.” “In some epochs, convulsions, the sudden inability to speak or terrible leg pain may loom prominently in the repertoire. In other epochs patients may draw chiefly upon such symptoms as abdominal pain, false estimates of body weight and enervating weakness as metaphors for conveying psychic stress.”

 In any given era, those who minister to the mentally ill — doctors or shamans or priests — inadvertently help to select which symptoms will be recognized as legitimate. Because the troubled mind has been influenced by healers of diverse religious and scientific persuasions, the forms of madness from one place and time often look remarkably different from the forms of madness in another.

That is until recently. 

For more than a generation now, we in the West have aggressively spread our modern knowledge of mental illness around the world. We have done this in the name of science, believing that our approaches reveal the biological basis of psychic suffering and dispel prescientific myths and harmful stigma. There is now good evidence to suggest that in the process of teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we’ve been exporting our Western “symptom repertoire” as well. That is, we’ve been changing not only the treatments but also the expression of mental illness in other cultures. Indeed, a handful of mental-health disorders — depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia among them — now appear to be spreading across cultures with the speed of contagious diseases. These symptom clusters are becoming the lingua franca of human suffering, replacing indigenous forms of mental illness. 

DR. SING LEE, a psychiatrist and researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, watched the Westernization of a mental illness firsthand. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was busy documenting a rare and culturally specific form of anorexia nervosa in Hong Kong. Unlike American anorexics, most of his patients did not intentionally diet nor did they express a fear of becoming fat. The complaints of Lee’s patients were typically somatic — they complained most frequently of having bloated stomachs. Lee was trying to understand this indigenous form of anorexia and, at the same time, figure out why the disease remained so rare. 

As he was in the midst of publishing his finding that food refusal had a particular expression and meaning in Hong Kong, the public’s understanding of anorexia suddenly shifted. On Nov. 24, 1994, a teenage anorexic girl named Charlene Hsu Chi-Ying collapsed and died on a busy downtown street in Hong Kong. The death caught the attention of the media and was featured prominently in local papers. “Anorexia Made Her All Skin and Bones: Schoolgirl Falls on Ground Dead,” read one headline in a Chinese-language newspaper. “Thinner Than a Yellow Flower, Weight-Loss Book Found in School Bag, Schoolgirl Falls Dead on Street,” reported another Chinese-language paper. 

In trying to explain what happened to Charlene, local reporters often simply copied out of American diagnostic manuals. The mental-health experts quoted in the Hong Kong papers and magazines confidently reported that anorexia in Hong Kong was the same disorder that appeared in the United States and Europe. In the wake of Charlene’s death, the transfer of knowledge about the nature of anorexia (including how and why it was manifested and who was at risk) went only one way: from West to East. 

Western ideas did not simply obscure the understanding of anorexia in Hong Kong; they also may have changed the expression of the illness itself. As the general public and the region’s mental-health professionals came to understand the American diagnosis of anorexia, the presentation of the illness in Lee’s patient population appeared to transform into the more virulent American standard. Lee once saw two or three anorexic patients a year; by the end of the 1990s he was seeing that many new cases each month. That increase sparked another series of media reports. “Children as Young as 10 Starving Themselves as Eating Ailments Rise,” announced a headline in one daily newspaper. By the late 1990s, Lee’s studies reported that between 3 and 10 percent of young women in Hong Kong showed disordered eating behavior. In contrast to Lee’s earlier patients, these women most often cited fat phobia as the single most important reason for their self-starvation. By 2007 about 90 percent of the anorexics Lee treated reported fat phobia. New patients appeared to be increasingly conforming their experience of anorexia to the Western version of the disease. 

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. “Culture shapes the way general psychopathology is going to be translated partially or completely into specific psychopathology,” Lee says. “When there is a cultural atmosphere in which professionals, the media, schools, doctors, psychologists all recognize and endorse and talk about and publicize eating disorders, then people can be triggered to consciously or unconsciously pick eating-disorder pathology as a way to express that conflict.”

The problem becomes especially worrisome in a time of globalization, when symptom repertoires can cross borders with ease. Having been trained in England and the United States, Lee knows better than most the locomotive force behind Western ideas about mental health and illness. Mental-health professionals in the West, and in the United States in particular, create official categories of mental diseases and promote them in a diagnostic manual that has become the worldwide standard. American researchers and institutions run most of the premier scholarly journals and host top conferences in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. 

Western drug companies dole out large sums for research and spend billions marketing medications for mental illnesses. In addition, Western-trained traumatologists often rush in where war or natural disasters strike to deliver “psychological first aid,” bringing with them their assumptions about how the mind becomes broken by horrible events and how it is best healed. Taken together this is a juggernaut that Lee sees little chance of stopping. 

“As Western categories for diseases have gained dominance, micro-cultures that shape the illness experiences of individual patients are being discarded,” Lee says. “The current has become too strong.” 

Would anorexia have so quickly become part of Hong Kong’s symptom repertoire without the importation of the Western template for the disease? It seems unlikely. Beginning with scattered European cases in the early 19th century, it took more than 50 years for Western mental-health professionals to name, codify and popularize anorexia as a manifestation of hysteria. By contrast, after Charlene fell onto the sidewalk on Wan Chai Road on that late November day in 1994, it was just a matter of hours before the Hong Kong population learned the name of the disease, who was at risk and what it meant. 

THE IDEA THAT our Western conception of mental health and illness might be shaping the expression of illnesses in other cultures is rarely discussed in the professional literature. Many modern mental-health practitioners and researchers believe that the scientific standing of our drugs, our illness categories and our theories of the mind have put the field beyond the influence of endlessly shifting cultural trends and beliefs. After all, we now have machines that can literally watch the mind at work. We can change the chemistry of the brain in a variety of interesting ways and we can examine DNA sequences for abnormalities. The assumption is that these remarkable scientific advances have allowed modern-day practitioners to avoid the blind spots and cultural biases of their predecessors.

Modern-day mental-health practitioners often look back at previous generations of psychiatrists and psychologists with a thinly veiled pity, wondering how they could have been so swept away by the cultural currents of their time. The confident pronouncements of Victorian-era doctors regarding the epidemic of hysterical women are now dismissed as cultural artifacts. Similarly, illnesses found only in other cultures are often treated like carnival sideshows. Koro, amok and the like can be found far back in the American diagnostic manual (DSM-IV, Pages 845-849) under the heading “culture-bound syndromes.” Given the attention they get, they might as well be labeled “Psychiatric Exotica: Two Bits a Gander.”

Western mental-health practitioners often prefer to believe that the 844 pages of the DSM-IV prior to the inclusion of culture-bound syndromes describe real disorders of the mind, illnesses with symptomatology and outcomes relatively unaffected by shifting cultural beliefs. And, it logically follows, if these disorders are unaffected by culture, then they are surely universal to humans everywhere. In this view, the DSM is a field guide to the world’s psyche, and applying it around the world represents simply the brave march of scientific knowledge.

 Of course, we can become psychologically unhinged for many reasons that are common to all, like personal traumas, social upheavals or biochemical imbalances in our brains. Modern science has begun to reveal these causes. Whatever the trigger, however, the ill individual and those around him invariably rely on cultural beliefs and stories to understand what is happening. Those stories, whether they tell of spirit possession, semen loss or serotonin depletion, predict and shape the course of the illness in dramatic and often counterintuitive ways. In the end, what cross-cultural psychiatrists and anthropologists have to tell us is that all mental illnesses, including depression, P.T.S.D. and even schizophrenia, can be every bit as influenced by cultural beliefs and expectations today as hysterical-leg paralysis or the vapors or zar or any other mental illness ever experienced in the history of human madness. 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 — the idiosyncratic cultural trappings — of the mind that is its host.

 EVEN WHEN THE underlying science is sound and the intentions altruistic, the export of Western biomedical ideas can have frustrating and unexpected consequences. For the last 50-odd years, Western mental-health professionals have been pushing what they call “mental-health literacy” on the rest of the world. Cultures became more “literate” as they adopted Western biomedical conceptions of diseases like depression and schizophrenia. One study published in The International Journal of Mental Health, for instance, portrayed those who endorsed the statement that “mental illness is an illness like any other” as having a “knowledgeable, benevolent, supportive orientation toward the mentally ill.”

Mental illnesses, it was suggested, should be treated like “brain diseases” over which the patient has little choice or responsibility. This was promoted both as a scientific fact and as a social narrative that would reap great benefits. The logic seemed unassailable: Once people believed that the onset of mental illnesses did not spring from supernatural forces, character flaws, semen loss or some other prescientific notion, the sufferer would be protected from blame and stigma. This idea has been promoted by mental-health providers, drug companies and patient-advocacy groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the United States and SANE in Britain. In a sometimes fractious field, everyone seemed to agree that this modern way of thinking about mental illness would reduce the social isolation and stigma often experienced by those with mental illness. Trampling on indigenous prescientific superstitions about the cause of mental illness seemed a small price to pay to relieve some of the social suffering of the mentally ill. 

But does the “brain disease” belief actually reduce stigma?

In 1997, Prof. Sheila Mehta from Auburn UniversityMontgomery in Alabama decided to find out if the “brain disease” narrative had the intended effect. She suspected that the biomedical explanation for mental illness might be influencing our attitudes toward the mentally ill in ways we weren’t conscious of, so she thought up a clever experiment.

In her study, test subjects were led to believe that they were participating in a simple learning task with a partner who was, unbeknownst to them, a confederate in the study. Before the experiment started, the partners exchanged some biographical data, and the confederate informed the test subject that he suffered from a mental illness.

The confederate then stated either that the illness occurred because of “the kind of things that happened to me when I was a kid” or that he had “a disease just like any other, which affected my biochemistry.” (These were termed the “psychosocial” explanation and the “disease” explanation respectively.) The experiment then called for the test subject to teach the confederate a pattern of button presses. When the confederate pushed the wrong button, the only feedback the test subject could give was a “barely discernible” to “somewhat painful” electrical shock. 

Analyzing the data, Mehta found a difference between the group of subjects given the psychosocial explanation for their partner’s mental-illness history and those given the brain-disease explanation. Those who believed that their partner suffered a biochemical “disease like any other” increased the severity of the shocks at a faster rate than those who believed they were paired with someone who had a mental disorder caused by an event in the past. 

“The results of the current study suggest that we may actually treat people more harshly when their problem is described in disease terms,” Mehta wrote. “We say we are being kind, but our actions suggest otherwise.” The problem, it appears, is that the biomedical narrative about an illness like schizophrenia carries with it the subtle assumption that a brain made ill through biomedical or genetic abnormalities is more thoroughly broken and permanently abnormal than one made ill though life events. “Viewing those with mental disorders as diseased sets them apart and may lead to our perceiving them as physically distinct. Biochemical aberrations make them almost a different species.” 

In other words, the belief that was assumed to decrease stigma actually increased it. Was the same true outside the lab in the real world? 

The question is important because the Western push for “mental-health literacy” has gained ground. Studies show that much of the world has steadily adopted this medical model of mental illness. Although these changes are most extensive in the United States and Europe, similar shifts have been documented elsewhere. When asked to name the sources of mental illness, people from a variety of cultures are increasingly likely to mention “chemical imbalance” or “brain disease” or “genetic/inherited” factors. 

Unfortunately, at the same time that Western mental-health professionals have been convincing the world to think and talk about mental illnesses in biomedical terms, we have been simultaneously losing the war against stigma at home and abroad. Studies of attitudes in the United States from 1950 to 1996 have shown that the perception of dangerousness surrounding people with schizophrenia has steadily increased over this time. Similarly, a study in Germany found that the public’s desire to maintain distance from those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia increased from 1990 to 2001.

 Researchers hoping to learn what was causing this rise in stigma found the same surprising connection that Mehta discovered in her lab. It turns out that those who adopted biomedical/genetic beliefs about mental disorders were the same people who wanted less contact with the mentally ill and thought of them as more dangerous and unpredictable. This unfortunate relationship has popped up in numerous studies around the world. In a study conducted in Turkey, for example, those who labeled schizophrenic behavior as akil hastaligi(illness of the brain or reasoning abilities) were more inclined to assert that schizophrenics were aggressive and should not live freely in the community than those who saw the disorder asruhsal hastagi (a disorder of the spiritual or inner self). Another study, which looked at populations in Germany, Russia and Mongolia, found that “irrespective of place . . . endorsing biological factors as the cause of schizophrenia was associated with a greater desire for social distance.”

 Even as we have congratulated ourselves for becoming more “benevolent and supportive” of the mentally ill, we have steadily backed away from the sufferers themselves. It appears, in short, that the impact of our worldwide antistigma campaign may have been the exact opposite of what we intended. 

NOWHERE ARE THE limitations of Western ideas and treatments more evident than in the case of schizophrenia. Researchers have long sought to understand what may be the most perplexing finding in the cross-cultural study of mental illness: people with schizophrenia in developing countries appear to fare better over time than those living in industrialized nations.

This was the startling result of three large international studies carried out by the World Health Organization over the course of 30 years, starting in the early 1970s. The research showed that patients outside the United States and Europe had significantly lower relapse rates — as much as two-thirds lower in one follow-up study. These findings have been widely discussed and debated in part because of their obvious incongruity: the regions of the world with the most resources to devote to the illness — the best technology, the cutting-edge medicines and the best-financed academic and private-research institutions — had the most troubled and socially marginalized patients.

 Trying to unravel this mystery, the anthropologist Juli McGruder from the University of Puget Sound spent years in Zanzibar studying families of schizophrenics. Though the population is predominantly Muslim, Swahili spirit-possession beliefs are still prevalent in the archipelago and commonly evoked to explain the actions of anyone violating social norms — from a sister lashing out at her brother to someone beset by psychotic delusions.

 McGruder found that far from being stigmatizing, these beliefs served certain useful functions. The beliefs prescribed a variety of socially accepted interventions and ministrations that kept the ill person bound to the family and kinship group. “Muslim and Swahili spirits are not exorcised in the Christian sense of casting out demons,” McGruder determined. “Rather they are coaxed with food and goods, feted with song and dance. They are placated, settled, reduced in malfeasance.” McGruder saw this approach in many small acts of kindness. She watched family members use saffron paste to write phrases from the Koran on the rims of drinking bowls so the ill person could literally imbibe the holy words. The spirit-possession beliefs had other unexpected benefits. Critically, the story allowed the person with schizophrenia a cleaner bill of health when the illness went into remission. An ill individual enjoying a time of relative mental health could, at least temporarily, retake his or her responsibilities in the kinship group. Since the illness was seen as the work of outside forces, it was understood as an affliction for the sufferer but not as an identity.

 For McGruder, the point was not that these practices or beliefs were effective in curing schizophrenia. Rather, she said she believed that they indirectly helped control the course of the illness. Besides keeping the sick individual in the social group, the religious beliefs in Zanzibar also allowed for a type of calmness and acquiescence in the face of the illness that she had rarely witnessed in the West.

 The course of a metastasizing cancer is unlikely to be changed by how we talk about it. With schizophrenia, however, symptoms are inevitably entangled in a person’s complex interactions with those around him or her. In fact, researchers have long documented how certain emotional reactions from family members correlate with higher relapse rates for people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Collectively referred to as “high expressed emotion,” these reactions include criticism, hostility and emotional over-involvement (like over-protectiveness or constant intrusiveness in the patient’s life). In one study, 67 percent of white American families with a schizophrenic family member were rated as “high EE.” (Among British families, 48 percent were high EE; among Mexican families the figure was 41 percent and for Indian families 23 percent.)

 Does this high level of “expressed emotion” in the United States mean that we lack sympathy or the desire to care for our mentally ill? Quite the opposite. Relatives who were “high EE” were simply expressing a particularly American view of the self. They tended to believe that individuals are the captains of their own destiny and should be able to overcome their problems by force of personal will. Their critical comments to the mentally ill person didn’t mean that these family members were cruel or uncaring; they were simply applying the same assumptions about human nature that they applied to themselves. They were reflecting an “approach to the world that is active, resourceful and that emphasizes personal accountability,” Prof. Jill M. Hooley of Harvard University concluded. “Far from high criticism reflecting something negative about the family members of patients with schizophrenia, high criticism (and hence high EE) was associated with a characteristic that is widely regarded as positive.”

 Widely regarded as positive, that is, in the United States. Many traditional cultures regard the self in different terms — as inseparable from your role in your kinship group, intertwined with the story of your ancestry and permeable to the spirit world. What McGruder found in Zanzibar was that families often drew strength from this more connected and less isolating idea of human nature. Their ability to maintain a low level of expressed emotion relied on these beliefs. And that level of expressed emotion in turn may be key to improving the fortunes of the schizophrenia sufferer.

Of course, to the extent that our modern psychopharmacological drugs can relieve suffering, they should not be denied to the rest of the world. The problem is that our biomedical advances are hard to separate from our particular cultural beliefs. It is difficult to distinguish, for example, the biomedical conception of schizophrenia — the idea that the disease exists within the biochemistry of the brain — from the more inchoate Western assumption that the self resides there as well. “Mental illness is feared and has such a stigma because it represents a reversal of what Western humans . . . have come to value as the essence of human nature,” McGruder concludes. “Because our culture so highly values . . . an illusion of self-control and control of circumstance, we become abject when contemplating mentation that seems more changeable, less restrained and less controllable, more open to outside influence, than we imagine our own to be.”

 CROSS-CULTURAL psychiatrists have pointed out that the mental-health ideas we export to the world are rarely unadulterated scientific facts and never culturally neutral. “Western mental-health discourse introduces core components of Western culture, including a theory of human nature, a definition of personhood, a sense of time and memory and a source of moral authority. None of this is universal,” Derek Summerfield of the Institute of Psychiatry in London observes. He has also written: “The problem is the overall thrust that comes from being at the heart of the one globalizing culture. It is as if one version of human nature is being presented as definitive, and one set of ideas about pain and suffering. . . . There is no one definitive psychology.”

 Behind the promotion of Western ideas of mental health and healing lie a variety of cultural assumptions about human nature. Westerners share, for instance, evolving beliefs about what type of life event is likely to make one psychologically traumatized, and we agree that venting emotions by talking is more healthy than stoic silence. We’ve come to agree that the human mind is rather fragile and that it is best to consider many emotional experiences and mental states as illnesses that require professional intervention. (The National Institute of Mental Health reports that a quarter of Americans have diagnosable mental illnesses each year.) The ideas we export often have at their heart a particularly American brand of hyperintrospection — a penchant for “psychologizing” daily existence. These ideas remain deeply influenced by the Cartesian split between the mind and the body, the Freudian duality between the conscious and unconscious, as well as the many self-help philosophies and schools of therapy that have encouraged Americans to separate the health of the individual from the health of the group. These Western ideas of the mind are proving as seductive to the rest of the world as fast food and rap music, and we are spreading them with speed and vigor.

 No one would suggest that we withhold our medical advances from other countries, but it’s perhaps past time to admit that even our most remarkable scientific leaps in understanding the brain haven’t yet created the sorts of cultural stories from which humans take comfort and meaning. When these scientific advances are translated into popular belief and cultural stories, they are often stripped of the complexity of the science and become comically insubstantial narratives. Take for instance this Web site text advertising the antidepressant Paxil: “Just as a cake recipe requires you to use flour, sugar and baking powder in the right amounts, your brain needs a fine chemical balance in order to perform at its best.” The Western mind, endlessly analyzed by generations of theorists and researchers, has now been reduced to a batter of chemicals we carry around in the mixing bowl of our skulls.

 All cultures struggle with intractable mental illnesses with varying degrees of compassion and cruelty, equanimity and fear. Looking at ourselves through the eyes of those living in places where madness and psychological trauma are still embedded in complex religious and cultural narratives, however, we get a glimpse of ourselves as an increasingly insecure and fearful people. Some philosophers and psychiatrists have suggested that we are investing our great wealth in researching and treating mental illness — medicalizing ever larger swaths of human experience — because we have rather suddenly lost older belief systems that once gave meaning and context to mental suffering.

 If our rising need for mental-health services does indeed spring from a breakdown of meaning, our insistence that the rest of the world think like us may be all the more problematic. Offering the latest Western mental-health theories, treatments and categories in an attempt to ameliorate the psychological stress sparked by modernization and globalization is not a solution; it may be part of the problem. When we undermine local conceptions of the self and modes of healing, we may be speeding along the disorienting changes that are at the very heart of much of the world’s mental distress.

 Ethan Watters lives in San Francisco. This essay is adapted from his book “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche,” which will be published later this month by Free Press.

An earlier version of this article misstated the publisher of Ethan Watters’s book. An earlier version of this article also misstated the name of the group National Alliance on Mental Illness.


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