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Illness Beliefs of Depressed Chinese American Patients in Primary Care

Yeung, Albert MD, ScD*†; Chang, Doris PhD‡; Gresham, Robert L. Jr BA*; Nierenberg, Andrew A. MD*; Fava, Maurizio MD*

Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease:
Brief Reports

This study investigated the illness beliefs of 40 depressed Chinese Americans in a primary care setting using the Exploratory Model Interview Catalogue (EMIC). Twenty-two depressed Chinese Americans (76%) complained of somatic symptoms; 4 (14%) reported psychological symptoms including irritability, rumination, and poor memory. No patients reported depressed mood spontaneously. Yet, 93% endorsed depressed mood when they filled out the CBDI. Twenty-one patients (72%) did not know the name of their illness or did not consider it a diagnosable medical illness, and five patients (17%) attributed their symptoms to pre-existing medical problems. Only three patients (10%) labeled their illness as psychiatric conditions. The patients generally sought help from general hospital (69%), lay help (62%), and alternative treatment (55%) but rarely from mental health professionals (3.5%) for their depressive symptoms. The results suggest that many Chinese Americans do not consider depressed mood a symptom to report to their physicians, and many are unfamiliar with depression as a treatable psychiatric disorder.

Author Information

*Depression Clinical and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA; †South Cove Community Health Center, Boston, MA; and ‡Ohio University, Department of Psychology, Athens, Ohio.

Supported by Fellowship Grant 5T32MH19126-10 from the American Psychiatric Association Program for Minority Research Training in Psychiatry.

Send reprint requests to Albert Yeung, MD, ScD, 50 Staniford St., Suite 401, Boston, MA 02114.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.