West vs East – Anxiety Disorders


Diagnostic tools used to assess mental illnesses appear to be largely based on a Western sample. Currently, to our knowledge, there are no peer reviewed studies detailing worrying as a construct in the context of Asian sample population groups. Earlier research suggests that worrying is a predictor of anxiety (Mathews, 1990; Wells, 1995). A large amount of the current literature on anxiety and its cognitive factors such as worrying and rumination have been based on Western sample groups (Roelofs, Huibers, Peeters, et al. 2010; Stapinski, Abbott, & Rapee, 2010). However, people in other cultures may worry about things that mainstream Australian families don’t fret over. For instance, Lan (2002) identified that having to uphold collective values such as filial piety is a source of stress and anxiety for some members of Asian communities.

Furthermore, in a study conducted in Korea, Yook, Kim & Suh, et al. (2010) found that intolerance of uncertainty (ambiguity) was associated with worrying. Drawing from the above, a perceived need to maintain collective values may also be a source of worry, particularly within Eastern cultures. Furthermore, recent research has revealed that people of Eastern countries reported a higher level of social anxiety and more positive attitudes towards socially avoidant behaviour, which leads us to believe that there are likely to be cross-cultural differences in the symptoms of anxiety and worry (Schreier, Heinrichs, Alden et al. 2010). At the present time, little is known about the role of worrying within Asian populations, nor culturally specific considerations regarding the diagnosis, symptomology and treatment of anxiety within Asian populations.

Given the increasing number of Asian migrants and temporary residents, and the availability of Medicare benefits for psychological treatment, research in the screening of symptoms and treatment for anxiety amongst people of Asian heritage (i.e., a cross-cultural comparison) would have implications for health care provision and policy development. Efforts to target mental health for the Asian population in Australia will need to consider Asian cultural perspectives.

Health Practitioners who work with Clients of other cultures, in particularly the Asian population should read this article by Dominic Murphy, titled “Strange or just plain weird? Cultural variations in mental illness”.

Gina Huisy & Christopher Howland (2012 October).

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