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Recognition of Mental Disorders

Mitchell G. Weiss, PhD, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1982;39(11):1344. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1982.04290110092015.
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To the Editor.  — In their article entitled "Measuring Nonspecific Psychological Distress and Other Dimensions of Psychopathology" (Archives 1981;38:1239-1247), Vernon and Roberts appropriately stated, "Available anthropological data illustrate the varied pattern of recognition of mental disorders, especially for the less severe psychoneurotic and psychophysiologic conditions" (p 1246).However, a corollary is also valid: available anthropological data also illustrate similar patterns of recognition of mental disorders, especially of the more severe disorders. In her analysis of diverse non-Western groups-the Eskimos of northwestern Alaska and Yorubas of rural, tropical Nigeria-Murphy noted that "in widely different cultural and environmental situations sanity appears to be distinguished from insanity by cues that are very similar to those used in the Western world."1 This attitude is implicitly assumed, if not explicitly stated, by the many efforts at cross-cultural psychiatric epidemiology, including those of the World Health Organization2 and others cited by Vernon and Roberts. Notwithstanding the


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