Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche

Crazy Like Us

by  Ethan Watters

Free Press; 306 pages, 2010

The U.S. exports plenty of things that much of the world would gladly send back: the Golden Arches, Jerry Bruckheimer movies and Baywatch, to name a few. But in addition to the cultural flotsam that drives the rest of the world crazy, America is literally exporting its mental illnesses. "In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been, for better and worse, homogenizing the way the world goes mad," writes journalist Ethan Watters. He traces how conditions first widely diagnosed in the U.S., such as anorexia and PTSD, have spread abroad "with the speed of contagious diseases." The growth of Big Pharma and the widespread adoption of U.S. health standards have made the ailing American psyche the primary diagnostic model. By 2008, for example, GlaxoSmithKline was selling over $1 billion worth of Paxil a year to the Japanese, who didn't know they had a problem with depression until drug marketers informed them. Though Watters' indignation can be wearying at times, he is on to something worth pondering.