Have we exceeded our ability to adapt to stress?

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The Self in Migration (the Ulysses Syndrome) and Psychology’s Moral Stance

Olga Louchakova-Schwartz and Joseba Achetogui

(In this conference presentation, Louchakova-Schwartz will review Achetogui’s many publications referencing the diagnostic category of the Ulysses Syndrome with “deep mourning” as caused by the seven griefs of migration, and call for the creation in the Division 24 a group for further discussion of the problem.)

This topic calls the attention of psychology to a very large-scale phenomenon which has been overlooked both clinically and in philosophical psychological reflection. Since 1990, the global numbers of migrants grew from 150 to 232 million, including from 19 to 43 million in the US alone. How does migration affect the human condition, and what are its consequences for subjectivity and self?  Is psychology adequately responding  to the phenomenon of migration, and what values govern our response?

JosebaAchoteguiAs demonstrated by a psychiatrist from Barcelona, Joseba Achotegui (1999), for many migration brings about stress levels exceeding the human capacity of adaptation. This leads to the development of Immigrant Syndrome with Chronic and Multiple Stress, known as the Ulysses Syndrome, which is an emerging health problem in our societies.

The health system does not provide adequately for these patients, either because this problem is dismissed as being trivial (out of ignorance, a lack of sensitivity, prejudice and, even racism, etc.) or because this condition is not adequately diagnosed and immigrants are treated as being depressive or psychotic, thereby causing the immigrants even more stress. Nor are their somatic symptoms seen as being psychological problems, and so they are subjected to a series of tests (such as colonoscopies, biopsies, etc.) and given inadequate, costly treatment.

The health system itself thereby becomes yet another instrument of stress.

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