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The assessment of insight across cultures

Author(s): Jacob K

Journal: Indian Journal of Psychiatry
ISSN 0019-5545

Volume: 52;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 373;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Cross-cultural assessment | culture | insight | psychosis

The assessment of insight is a part of the routine clinical examination for people with mental illness. Such assessment, by psychiatrists, is based on the current definitions of insight, which rely on western notions of health and illness. This paper discusses the recent findings of illness perspectives of people with a variety of physical diseases and mental disorders from India. Studies on insight in schizophrenia and bipolar disorders also examined explanatory models of illness among patients, relatives, and the general population. The findings argue for the fact that the assessment of insight should be against the local cultural standards rather than universal yardsticks. The assessment of insight should evaluate awareness, attribution, and action. People with psychosis who are able to re-label their psychotic experience, offer non-delusional explanations for changes in themselves, which correspond to beliefs about illness held by the subculture, admit to the need for restitution, and seek locally available help, can be said to possess insight. The results recommend the use of universal conventions to assess insight in people with psychosis rather than the use of uniform criteria.
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