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A Cold of the Heart: Japan Strives to Normalize Depression

Vickery, George Kendall (2006) A Cold of the Heart: Japan Strives to Normalize Depression. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In 1999, the Japanese government began approving the use of SSRIs, those antidepressant medications including Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil that had years earlier triggered the "Prozac Revolution" in the United States. Before then, depression was not commonly diagnosed in Japan, and it was argued that the infrequency was due to cultural factors. Since 1999, however, rates of diagnosis have surged and depression has garnered increasing attention in the popular media. As a result, the mainstream conception of depression is shifting from that of a serious mental illness affecting a small number of individuals to a less severe condition from which virtually anyone can suffer. In short, depression is becoming "normalized." Based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in clinical settings in Tokyo from 2001 to 2003, this dissertation argues that Japan is "fertile ground" for the normalization of depression and that depression is increasingly resonating because of its ability to encapsulate the pressures and insecurity that are dominating the lives of many individuals. This normalization represents a medicalized response to a variety of novel stresses - especially layoffs, financial insecurity, and overwork - that many citizens are facing in the new millennium, with many of these stresses stemming from Japan's ongoing economic restructuring. Depression is emerging as a means of discussing the impact of these stresses on the lives of working adults, especially men. The increasing focus on depression, therefore, represents changes in social experience and the increasing recognition of those changes.By showing the degree to which the emerging understandings of depression in Japan are embedded in the socio-economic context and by comparing Japan's "depression boom" with America's Prozac Revolution, this dissertation examines depression's capacity to operate as an idiom of distress within which modes of personal suffering are imbricated with wider socio-economic forces.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Vickery, George
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBrown, L. Keithlkb@pitt.eduLKB
Committee MemberAlter, Joseph Sjsalter@pitt.eduJSALTER
Committee MemberScaglion, Richardscaglion@pitt.eduSCAGLION
Committee MemberSmethurst, Richardrsmet@pitt.eduRSMET
Date: 7 July 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 1 August 2005
Approval Date: 7 July 2006
Submission Date: 5 December 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: antidepressants; cross-cultural psychiatry; medical anthropology
Other ID:, etd-12052005-230923
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:08
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:53


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