While we tend to think of illnesses as specific encapsualted ‘things’ that happen to the body, it turns out that our culture and psychology has a huge influence on not just what we think of illness, but how we actually become ill.
Culture also shapes what we think of as ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’, ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ and this is one of the main driving forces behind how we express physical or psychological distress and expect it to be treated.
Of course, in the West, drug companies are persistently trying to shape our cultural understanding of what constitutes illness to better promote their product.
The picture is taken from an interesting Somatosphere post on methylphenidate (Ritalin) and ADHD. It’s a 1960s advert for the drug showing it was marketed as an antidepressant before ADHD was ever talked about.
The blog is written by several professional medical anthropologists and let’s hope it continues as it’s started as I’m throughly enjoying reading it.