Psychological Disorders and the Indian Culture

Culture impacts people's preferences, such as their taste in music, art, literature, way of dressing, language, and customs. The understanding, diagnosis, and management of psychological disorders vary from culture to culture. World Health Organisation defines psychological disorders as clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition that causes significant distress in various aspects of their lives.

Personality types and temperament are based on the humour, systemic, and mental viewpoints in Ayurveda (Science of Life). There are three humours: ether (vata), bile (pitta), and kaph (kapha) (phlegm). Seven personality subtypes are based on this taxonomy. Eight systemic and five additional fundamental elemental personality subtypes are the foundation for all physical and mental diseases. The Atharveda divides mental illnesses into two categories: moderate and severe. Both the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita provide a thorough explanation of illnesses that include mental problems.

What is the understanding of Indian Culture of Psychological Disorders?

In Indian culture, human behavior has been explored at length. In the post-Vedic period, in the Upanishads, the Bhagwad Gita, Yogic and ayurvedic literature, abnormalities in human behavior have been described, and the composition has been emphasized substantially through psychic changes. In India, it is believed that the process of change occurs in an individual through a psychotherapeutic relationship which has been described as the 'guru and chela relationship' where the wise offers advice to the pupil and helps him in relieving the suffering if psychotherapy is accepted as an interpersonal system of mitigating suffering. This has been observed in Buddhist and Jain traditions as well.

Understanding the human psyche in the Vedantic model is more respectable to Indian cases because of the transfer of stations from generation to generation. Stories from the Bhagwat Gita as a psychotherapy of death cases are nearly a tradition in Indian culture. Indeed, now in numerous families, when death is anticipated, accept the death in a further gracious manner. In the modern-day scenario, though, there is increasing awareness about psychological disorders and acceptance of scientific explanations of psychological disorders rather than merely accepting them as forces of nature, witchcraft, or other superstitious beliefs. Nevertheless, some stigma is still associated with Psychological Disorders in Indian Culture.

While there are huge indigenous differences in mental health issues, the challenges in mental health in India remain stigma reduction, conducting research on the efficacity of early intervention, reaching the unreached, gender-sensitive services, making quality mental healthcare accessible and available, suicide prevention, reduction of substance abuse, enforcing insurance for mental health and reducing out- of- fund expenditure, and eventually, perfecting care for homeless mentally ill. All these require sustained advocacy to promote mentally ill persons' rights and reduce stigma and discrimination. It consists of various actions aimed at changing the attitudinal walls in achieving positive mental health issues in the general population.

Stigma Associated with Psychological Disorders in the Indian Culture

Societal Stigma

Individuals who have psychological disorders may be labeled as not 'suitable.' Individuals of all religions in India experience a certain amount of discrimination regarding their marriage prospects on the grounds of their mental health. Despite their qualifications and financial status, individuals may be rejected in marriage proposals as they may be considered "mentally unfit." In some families, family members of individuals with a psychological disorder are often asked to hide it until the marriage has taken place, or else the wedding would be called off if the prospective partner of their family members finds out about it.

Lack of Support

Various studies suggest that since mental health is taboo in India, extended family and friends refrain from supporting individuals with psychological disorders; they may even choose to stay away from the individual's family altogether. In addition, it is not uncommon for individuals to get separated from their partners if they are diagnosed with a psychological disorder.

Perception of people about Psychological Disorders

Due to the lack of awareness and the stigma associated with psychological disorders, individuals battling psychological disorders in India are considered to bring about shame to the family, are considered "abnormal," "mad," having "lost it," or to be "faking it."

Familial Sigma

Some individuals battling psychological disorders may take the blame for bringing disgrace upon their families and may feel that their families will have to bear the ill consequences just because they have a psychological disorder. However, unfortunately, the whole family may have to suffer because their condition is a commonly held belief among people.

The attitude of the Indian Population towards Psychological Disorders

India is facing serious mental health issues, with an estimated 56 million people suffering from depression and 38 million from anxiety disorders, according to a report by the World Health Organisation. Psychological disorders are believed to be a crucial reason why many individuals in India commit suicide every hour. Presently, the attitude of the Indian population towards psychological disorders is not helping to bring down the rates of suicides due to psychological disorders.

Stereotypes and stigma are associated with psychological disorders in India, which restricts them from seeking professional support and openly discussing their feelings due to the fear of being judged. The foremost reason India loses mental health is the lack of mindfulness and sensitivity. In addition, there is a big stigma around people suffering from mental health issues. They are frequently tagged as "fools," "crazy," and numerous other terms by society. This leads to a vicious cycle of shame, suffering, and isolation of the cases.


It can be noted that the understanding of psychological disorders in the Indian context is embedded in mythological history. Despite the understanding of psychological disturbances going centuries back in India, it can be seen that there is a stigma associated with psychological disorders in India. Due to the pandemic, there is an increase in people combatting psychological disorders. Mental health literacy is a primary requirement in India to combat overlooking, misjudging, and dismissing the signs of psychological disorders.

The Indian population can imbibe Mental Health awareness or psycho-education through campaigns, mental health advocacy, and conscious ways to reduce the stigma associated with Psychological Disorders. It is of utmost importance to de-stigmatize mental health in a country like India, where the number of deaths by suicide due to psychological disorders is on the rise as people refrain from talking about it out of fear of being judged or labeled mad.