OCD in Asian Americans/Indian Americans

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that can affect anyone regardless of their racial/ethnic identity. While Asian Americans and Indian Americans deal with the same OCD symptoms as other races/ethnicities (perfectionism, doubt/checking, aggression, mental compulsions, etc.) there are certain subtypes that are more commonplace.

Some of the more common obsessions and compulsions found in those countries/cultures are outlined below.

Obsessions:

Compulsions:

Stigma, shame, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors

  • Stereotypes about Asian Americans/Indian American individuals may serve as a source of distress, despite some stereotypes being considered desirable or positive. For example, the stereotype that Asian and Indian Americans are smarter and more academically successful than other groups produces a lot of pressure that many feel forced to fulfill. This can result in feelings of anxiety, antisocial behaviors, and even wanting to change who you are on the inside to fit in. Tying in negative stereotypes regarding mental health, all in all this produces great distress within the Asian/Indian American community. [36]
  • With body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), Asian Americans reported being more concerned with straight hair and dark skin then their white counterparts. [37]
  • Due to negative attitudes towards mental health, Asian and Indian Americans are more likely to have somatic symptoms. This may look like headaches, dizziness, fainting, stomach aches, constipation, and even diarrhea. [38] Disclosing that one is struggling emotionally or dealing with stress can also come with an immense sense of guilt shame and a feeling of being alone. [39]
  • Lastly, opening up about mental health struggles can be seen as dishonoring the family/community, and can be seen as weak. This makes it difficult for members of Asian and Indian American communities to seek help and keep up with treatment. [40] [41]

Culture-bound disorders

Culture-bound disorders are symptoms that are specific to certain societies and cultures, and limited to a setting and has a direct relationship with that setting. [42]

Puppy Pregnancy: This is the fear of being pregnant with a canine embryo after having been bitten by a dog. Puppy pregnancy is characterized by fears of internal contamination (from the puppy fetus), disability (impotence due to damage to internal sexual organs), and death. One case reported excessive checking after having observed a dog licking milk cans and being bitten by the same dog. The subject was fearful that he was being chased by a dog, and would check all milk cans, worried that they had been licked by a dog. The authors also noted obsessive thoughts involving fear of dog bites and behavioral avoidance. [43]

Koro: This is the fear of sexual organs (penis or breasts) retracting back into the body and potentially causing death. Koro sufferers experience great anxiety and distress which can result in compulsive behaviors. Some rituals may include pulling on genitals to stop or delay the retraction. Koro may not be simply a culture-bound syndrome but an OCD-related phenomenon with more universal constructs. [44]

Taijin Kyofusho: This is an interpersonal fear disorder that can manifest in many forms. Examples include fear of offending others due to a facial physical defect or offensive facial expressions, fear of having a physical deformity, or even fear of blushing. [45] This is often considered a form of social anxiety disorder.

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Sources:

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