Do you know that Xenophobia is a mental disorder? The recent but now common killings of foreign nationals especially Nigerians in South Africa has made xenophobia a burning issue in our National Discourse once again. This has made me dig deeper into the topic only to discover that it is included in the grouping and classification of mental disorders by the world mental health body. In Psychology and Psychiatry, it is classied as an anxiety disorder which can make a sufferer harm, maim or kill a perceived foreigner.
17 Things you should know about XENOPHOBIA from mental health perspective
1. It is a mental disorder. In psychiatry and psychology, xenophobia is classified under Anxiety Disorders, in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). It is a form of phobia and an extreme form of racism.
2. It is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.
3. Xenophobia is an anxiety or a mental disorder in which meeting strangers or foreigners causes extreme reactions of fear.
4. An individual suffering from xenophobia perceives the unknown or unfamiliar external element as a potential threat. This feeling is impulsive, exaggerated, and mostly baseless.
5. Xenophobic anxiety is more common in individuals with greater tendency towards fear and anxietyand those who suffer from adrenal insufficiency.
6. Xenophobia can involve perceptions of an ingroup toward an outgroup and can manifest itself in suspicion of the activities of others or individuals, and a desire to eliminate their presence to secure a presumed purity and may relate to a fear of losing national, ethnic or racial Identity.
7. In extreme and rare cases of xenophobia, a person can display a morbid preoccupation with strangers or foreigners, and might even cause them harm.
8. It can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”.
9. Xenophobic related symptoms can be caused by an extremely traumatic experience, such as a violent assault by a foreigner, poverty or economic disadvantage, loss of faith in government, political agenda, a terrorist attack, or genocide. Medically, it can also be considered an adjustment disorder or regarded as related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
10. It continues to be an effective political tool because having a common enemy feels good.
11. Some evolutionary psychologists have argued that xenophobia “may be a part of the human genetic behavioral heritage”. “Perhaps the tendency toward xenophobia protected human ancestors from outside groups who might do them harm”. They say.
13. Other scientists have complained that this is little more than an evolutionary just-so story.
14. They point out that the “genetic xenophobia claim is supported by no evidence and could be used as an excuse to justify and naturalize racism and discriminatory anti-immigration policies”.
15. The symptoms for xenophobia are very similar to other anxiety disorders: shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, nuisea, dizziness, trembling, panic attacks and profuse sweating accompanied by extreme fear or anxiety.
16. Medical treatment for xenophobia involves cognitive behavioral therapies and counseling to mitigate the irrational fear coupled with anti-anxiety medication (eg clonazepam and oxazepam) and anti-depressants.
17. Therapy aims to reprogram the patient’s mind to accepting strangers as ordinary people.