The voices heard by people with schizophrenia are friendlier in India and Africa, than in the US

Posted on August 1, 2014

Photo: flickr

In San Mateo the interviewees talked about their condition as a brain disease, they used psychiatric diagnostic terms to describe themselves, and their experiences were almost overwhelmingly negative. Fourteen described hearing voices that told them to hurt others or themselves. Eight people didn't know the identity of their voices and few described having a personal relationship with their voices.

By contrast, in Chennai, the interviewees frequently spoke of their relationships with their voices - that is, they heard the voices of relatives or friends, giving them advice or scolding them. These patients rarely used diagnostic terms, and rarely talked of voices instructing them to commit violence. Instead, distress, when it occurred, usually arose from their voices talking about sex. Nine interviewees described voices that were significantly good - in terms of being playful or entertaining.

In Accra, yet another picture emerged. Most of the interviewees here mentioned hearing God. This isn't simply a case of this sample being more religious - the interview groups in all three locations were predominantly religious. Half the interviewees in Accra reported that their voice hearing was mostly or entirely positive. Others frequently emphasised the positive. Use of diagnostic labels was rare, as were incitements to violence by voices.

Luhrmann and her team said their most striking finding was that the experiences of voice hearing in the two non-Western samples were less harsh and more "relational" - that is, patients perceived their voices as other people, who could not be controlled. The researchers believe this difference is likely due to Western cultures emphasising independence and individuality - in which case heard voices are experienced as a violation - whereas African and Asian cultures emphasise how each person's mind is interwoven with others. "We believe that these social expectations about minds and persons may shape the voice-hearing experience of those with serious psychotic disorder," the researchers said.

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Category(s):Schizophrenia

Source material from BPS Research Digest


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