Investigating the link between symptom expression, medicalization and acculturation: The case of Portuguese immigrants

Dr. James has conducted groundbreaking research into the experiences of Portuguese immigrants with agonias, a commonly-expressed disorder that is literally translated as “the agonies.” While North American clinicians often diagnose agonias as anxiety and/or depression, and treat it with medication and psychotherapy, these approaches are often unsuccessful. Dr. James’ previous research indicates that the meaning, symptoms and treatment of agonias do not match the standard psychiatric disorders of anxiety or depression. Dr. James is investigating the differences in the way clinicians and members of Portuguese communities understand agonias; whether it is related to anxiety or depression; and whether assimilation into North American society changes community members’ understanding and experience of agonias. This research will further inform her work teaching therapists throughout Canada and the US how to conduct psychotherapy with ethnic minority patients.