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Stigma, depression, and somatization in South India
Am J Psychiatry 1996;153:1043-1049.
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OBJECTIVE: The relationships of stigma to both depression and somatization were studied in psychiatric patients in South India to test the hypothesis that stigma is positively related to depressive symptoms and negatively related to somatoform symptoms. METHOD: Illness experience, symptom prominence, and indicators of stigma for 80 psychiatric outpatients were addressed with the Explanatory Model Interview Catalogue. Stigma scores and ratings of symptom prominence were derived. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale were administered to assess psychiatric diagnoses and symptoms of depression. Clinical narratives were analyzed to clarify the nature of relationships between stigma and symptom prominence. RESULTS: The mean stigma scores were 18.2 (SD = 13.0) for patients with somatoform disorders only, 36.0 (SD = 19.0) for patients with depressive disorders only, and 26.8 (SD = 16.0) for those with mixed depressive and somatoform disorders. The stigma scores were positively related to depressive symptoms, as indicated by Hamilton scale scores and prominence ratings for depressive symptoms, but stigma was inversely related to somatoform symptoms, as indicated by ratings of symptom prominence. Although both depressive and somatic symptoms were distressing, qualitative analysis clarified meanings of perceived stigma, showing that depressive symptoms, unlike somatic symptoms, were construed as socially disadvantageous. CONCLUSIONS: The tendency to perceive and report distress in psychological or somatic terms is influenced by various social and cultural factors, including the degree of stigma associated with particular symptoms. This study with the Explanatory Model Interview Catalogue demonstrates how quantitative and qualitative methods can be effectively combined to examine key issues in cultural psychiatry.

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