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Study Up For 'Think': Can Culture Make Us Crazy?

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In the past, delusions were thought to be caused by misfiring neurons. But NYU professor Joel Gold suggests that in order to better provide treatment for mental illness, a person’s culture and background must be considered.";

Our surroundings affect the way we think and act. But psychiatrist Joel and philosopher Ian Gold take this idea further to mental health. The two brothers examined specific cases where society and culture have played a role in producing delusions. Joel joins Krys Boyd today on Think at noon to talk about their latest book, Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness.

Joel’s interaction with a number of patients introduced him to the “Truman Show delusion” back in 2002. This idea caused these patients to believe that they were in the center of a reality show, similar to the 1998 film The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey.

New York Post contributor Susannah Cahalan adds her opinion to the mix as someone who dealt with a neurological brain disease. In an age where social media and tales of the NSA are culturally important, it’s hard to escape the mentality that one is the center of attention.

In studying schizophrenia, anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann found that differences in culture do influence mental health in certain ways. For example, subjects from Western countries such as the United States, experienced negative voices in their hallucinations because a stronger sense of self identity allowed them to see an intrusion in their private world. This contrasted with subjects in India or Africa, who were more open to the idea of relationships and viewed these voices as positive.

And even on the other side of the world in Asia, adolescent suicide is on the rise due to influences such as parental pressure to do well in school and the one-child policy, The Globalist reports.

Listen to Think, Monday through Thursday at noon and 9 p.m., on KERA 90.1 FM or via online streaming.