Culture, cultural factors and psychiatric diagnosis: review and projections

World Psychiatry. 2009 Oct;8(3):131-9. doi: 10.1002/j.2051-5545.2009.tb00233.x.


This paper aims to provide conceptual justifications for the inclusion of culture and cultural factors in psychiatric diagnosis, and logistic suggestions as to the content and use of this approach. A discussion of the scope and limitations of current diagnostic practice, criticisms from different quarters, and the role and relevance of culture in the diagnostic encounter, precede the examination of advantages and disadvantages of the approach. The cultural content of psychiatric diagnosis should include the main, well-recognized cultural variables, adequate family data, explanatory models, and strengths and weaknesses of every individual patient. The practical aspects include the acceptance of "cultural discordances" as a component of an updated definition of mental disorder, and the use of a refurbished cultural formulation. Clinical "telescoping" strategies to obtain relevant cultural data during the diagnostic interview, and areas of future research (including field trials on the cultural formulation and on "culture bound syndromes"), are outlined.

Keywords: Culture; cultural formulation; psychiatric diagnosis.