Japanese society has a different perspective on coping with mental health issues. Based on mental health studies, comparative psychology, and psychiatry prove that culture influences individual problems. Each culture has different strategies for coping with life problems and stress.
Values and traditions shape our cultural influence. As well as by the health, psychological, or spiritual care offered to the members of each community. Messages conveyed in the media or the support that community members have. It can be in family relationships, friendships, or with professionals or experts in their environment.
Cultural influences shape our values and traditions. As well as by the health, psychological, or spiritual care offered to the members of each community. Messages conveyed in the media or the support that community members are also influential. Family relationships, friendships, or with different professionals or experts in their environment can deter how an individual feels.
Approach to the Japanese Society
On the other hand, there are mental health disorders that are defined differently depending on the culture. For example, in Western countries, talk about “depression” is more common in recent years. However, in Japan, when a person has the same symptoms, they are usually said to suffer from “melancholy.”
In the West, it is interesting that there are “medicalized” states of sadness (more or less severe). Others can experience a serious state of sadness that is more than others.
When sadness is prolonged, the Japanese name it jibyōthat. A possible meaning is “to carry an ailment,” which does not refer to a sense of an illness but causes an ailment. Jibyō can not only cause melancholy or sadness but also other effects.
This state is not limited to physical symptoms such as headaches, stiffness in the shoulders, constipation, hip pains, vertigo, fatigue, sleep problems, drowsiness, and nervousness. According to the Japanese, a vulnerable person will have jibyō. This is when feeling low, having a difficult time, having economic problems, or being sentimental.
Western (vs Japanese) Society’s Approach
Each society has its way of relating to others. The Japanese tend to be more collectivist than Westerners. It is important in Western culture to value individual self. In this environment, the ” self ” is understood as someone distinct from others. In non-Western cultures, an individual belongs to a group.
Thus, in Western individuals, negative feelings are associated with low self-esteem or negative beliefs about oneself. On the contrary, in non-Western societies, it is usually interpreted as a lack of adjustment of the individual to a specific group.
In the West, cognitive and motivational deficits attributed to depressive states create ideas of despair or suicide in individuals. The person with depression can appear as isolated, distinct, and unique. A depressive person makes their assessments of each experience or situation.
For this reason, Western psychology tends to focus on the individual. They also look for ways to change their mental schemes, their anxiety level, or how they relate to each other.
The Japanese interpretation is different. Individuals make sense of their actions in terms of interactions in each situation. As part of the group dynamics, each individual understands where they belong.
However, for the Japanese, being thin or overweight is understood by knowing the group to which the individual belongs. Therefore, whenever these problems appear, it is considered a dysfunctional relationship within the group (or the society to which the individual belongs) that causes this eating disorder. The focus is not so much on the person but the context in which they develop their actions.
In another post (Morita therapy to treat mental health problems in Japan), we will discuss how to understand mental health problems differently. It is possible to develop different therapies used in the West.
Llewelyn, S., & Shimoyama, H. (2012). Working with CBT across Cultures in Clinical Psychology with Particular Reference to Japanese Clinical Psychology. Japanese Journal of Clinical Psychology, 12(3), 415-421.