Considering the cultural context in psychopathology formulations

17 May 2013

BACKGROUND: Mental health research appears to be continually transforming. Recent literature reflects a greater appreciation for the ways in which pathoplastic features of culture modulate emotional regulation. This article introduces those aspects of the literature which explore the (re)consideration of culture as a dynamic and essential construct in the clinical formulation of psychopathology. OBJECTIVES: The study aims to review literature that focuses on the dynamic influence of culture in psychopathology. Furthermore, the researchers aim to present a view on the ways in which culture appeared to shape the topography of psychopathology nosology. METHOD: A literature review of 31 sources. RESULTS: The review indicated that 29 literature sources were conceptual in design, suggesting a great need for more empirical research. This section also explores themes identified during the literature review. The literature is tabulated according to features and emerging themes. Three major themes were identified and included: the cultural context; the evolving definitions of culture; and culture and psychopathology. CONCLUSION/DISCUSSION: An analysis of the themes is offered. The authors conclude by highlighting the significance of the literature at present. Areas of particular interest suggest that health and behaviour are dependent, at least in part, on culture; psychopathology may also be appreciated as a social construct; culture influences psychopathology regardless of the aetiology; diagnostic classes do not adequately consider operational definitions; and a greater focus on hermeneutic perceptivity in appreciating cultural dynamics in psychopathology will benefit clinical assessment.