, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 231-245

Taijin Kyofusho: Diagnostic and cultural issues in Japanese psychiatry

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Abstract

Taijin Kyofusho or ‘anthrophobia’ is a Japanese culture-specific diagnostic label for the presenting problems of various fear reactions in interpersonal situations. The starting point of the present study was accumulating studies on Japanese cases of Taijin Kyofusho and the assertion in Japanese psychiatry that the symptom complex called Taijin kyofusho is Japanese culture-bound. In light of previous works on culture-bound disorders, the present study examines whether or not American mental health professionals could diagnose Japanese case descriptions of Taijin Kyofusho and what kinds of labels they applied to these Japanese cases. The results showed that American judges were able to diagnose the Japanese cases nearly as well as American cases. However, there were considerable variability and inconsistency in their judgments of both the Japanese and American cases. The rate of diagnostic agreement dropped considerably as judges were asked to proceed from broad categories to specific categories. American judges grouped the Japanese cases of Taijin Kyofusho into a number of heterogeneous categories using labels such as paranoid schizophrenia, paranoid personality, phobic neurosis, and anxiety neurosis, among others. These results are discussed in terms of psychopathological diagnostic criteria and present conceptualization of culture-bound disorders, value judgments of mental health professionals, and the social contexts in which Taijin Kyofusho reactions occur.