Discussion Questions for Ethan Watters
- The central idea of Ethan Watters’ book “Crazy Like Us” is that the psychiatric definitions of mental illnesses that are practiced in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual are being exported to the rest of the world, sometimes supplanting and replacing other helpful treatments, and sometimes changing the expression of the illness itself. Do you find this challenging to any of the assumptions that you have about mental illness? Explain.
- Physical illness is expressed in the same way in other cultures, but Watters reports that this isn’t true for mental illness. Why do you think this is the case?
- Watters contends that the expression of mental distress in a particular culture is shaped by a language of suffering for that moment in time and in that culture. Do you agree?
- The symptoms of PTSD, say, different from the symptoms of “shell shock” in World War I, and from “battle fatigue” in World War II. How dow we explain this?
- Watters states that the borderline between the normal and the pathalogical is being moved; so many people are being diagnosed for things that weren’t treated as mental illnesses a generation ago. Why do you think this is happening?
- What do you think about the fact that people with schizophrenia recover much faster in 3rd world countries than in the United States? What could be causing this?
- Watters said, “We have lost older belief systems that once gave meaning and context to mental suffering.” Do you agree with this? Explain.
- After hearing this interview, do you want to read the book? Has it caused you to question some of your assumptions?
See also: Books by Ethan Watters
These questions are to provide family and peer discussion and education. The information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychological condition. If you think someone is too fragile to be part of the discussion, please have them consult their mental health care provider for individual advice regarding the situation.