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Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present Paperback – July 6, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In their refreshing, thoroughly documented, cogent reply to the current generally accepted interpretation of the incidence and even the existence of insanity, Torrey and Miller point out many holes in the arguments of other recent historians of the subject and don't push any single approach to schizophrenia and manic depression. Instead, they ask for a spirit of inquiry because so much about the rate of growth and the causes of mental illness remains unclear that open-minded research and clinical studies are still very much needed. Although there are a lot of statistics and graphs, as well as explication of them, in the book, there is also enough history of diagnosis and treatment in the U.S., England, Ireland, and Canada to fascinate readers whose favorite topic isn't numbers. The book delves deeply into clinical accounts and historic insane-asylum politics, funding, and social acceptance. Frequent reference to literary works and authors lightens the tone of the proceedings, as does the authors' hypothesis of a relationship between the wearing of stockings and the incidence of insanity. William Beatty
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The authors have done impressive research locating an enormous number of examples of mental distress in the geographic and temporal areas of their focus." -- Journal of the History of Medicine

"This highly informative and stimulating work has certainly raised some neglected questions that demand more serious scientific attention." -- Nature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 458 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (July 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813542073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813542072
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., is a research psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He is the executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, the founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a professor of psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the author of twenty books. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a delightful read. It is a fascinating trip back through history on a thought provoking topic, and the authors present their view in a scholarly manner. There is enough anecdotal information to keep it moving and interesting, and it is far from being "dry". If you have even a casual interest in the rise of mental illness in Britain and North America you'll definitely enjoy this book.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
_The Invisible Plague_ is written by psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey and examines the issue of the increase in worldwide cases of insanity since the eighteenth century. The book is at once both a scientific study which attempts to explain certain statistical data from different parts of the world, including Europe, the United States, and Canada, as well as a history of the mental asylum. Torrey examines in particular the issue of insanity and it's two principal forms - that of schizophrenia and that of manic-depressive psychosis. He also examines the role of insanity within literature, examining writings of such figures as Edgar Allen Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville, among others of course. Data from successive censuses taken in various countires seem to support Torrey's conclusions that insanity is indeed increasing, though with the era of deinstitutionalization this becomes more difficult to prove. Thus, according to Torrey, this issue may be covered up, because where formerly patients were admitted to asylums today they are not. Explanations for this increase have traditionally varied. Torrey also discusses some of the theories as to the causes of insanity - all biological, including genetics, stress, and environmental factors, as well as toxins and microbes in the environment. While the warnings in this book may appear alarmist, this book offers an informative introduction to the issue of insanity, which continues to plague the modern world despite its ancient origins. As a history text this book is good in that it reveals some of the developments which were responsible for the birth of modern day psychiatry and the state mental institution or asylum. Perhaps we can see in insanity, a reflection of the larger struggles of civilization as it makes its way from its birth pangs in ancient times, to its growth development, and eventual old age and decline.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Abbey Strauss on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating review of the history of mental illness for periods of time that are usually rather hard to research. I cannot speak for the accuracy since I am not a historian and I do not have the resource library to check out it's references, but it seems quite reasonable and well researched. I enjoyed the book for the thoughts it provoked and how it filled in gaps about the development of the notions of mental illness over the last several hundred years. This book has been the key to many intreguing disucssions.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "poohbear43" on June 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey does excellent research and gives extensive information on the life and times of the maltreatment of the mentally ill. Very good book. I recommend this to anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness or has family members suffering from a mental illness.
This book shows me that the mentally ill are still treated like a human zoo just like they were back in the times of Bedlam in London. Just look at the movies and tv news reports....the public is made to fear mental illness instead of understand it.
Dr. Torrey's book tries to break down the walls of stigma and ddiscrimination to educate people.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lillian Somner on May 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book reviews in detail how mental illness has been evolving over the years. There is minimal attention given to causes or ideas about what is leading to the increase in cases of mental illness until the very end of the book and then it is a cursory list without much discussion.
I found it most disappointing.
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Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present
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