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The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Paperback – November 16, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0691017235 ISBN-10: 0691017239 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Winner of the 1998 Wellcome Medal for Anthropology as Applied to Medical Problems, Royal Anthropological Institute

"Allan Young. . . would disagree with the notion that [PTSD] has always been with us, arguing that the traumatic memory is a man-made object. . . . His book is a lucid case-study of the way medicine and society have managed to build up this man-made disorder over the past century and a half."--Gerald Weissmann, The London Review of Books

"Allan Young has written a splendid and much needed book. . . . Young's book is an invaluable contribution to an emerging and exciting area of scholarship. Intellectually bold, analytically rigorous, and rhetorically compelling, The Harmony of Illusions will both delight and provoke--perhaps even infuriate--friends and foes of the PTSD diagnosis."--Eric Caplan, American Journal of Sociology

"The well-researched description of the development of the construct of PTSD within American psychiatric circles makes for fascinating reading as the personalities of the players are presented along with their ideas."--William Yule, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"An ambitious and richly informative account of the growth and progress of modern psychiatry itself and particularly of the intimate relationship between that discipline and its broader social and political context. As a model study of the construction of mental illness, this book represents a significant contribution to the history of science and medicine."--Philip Jenkins, American Historical Review

"A stringent critique of the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which came into vogue after the Vietnam war. . . . Young's work is scientific in the best sense, i.e., clear, precise, and free of jargon and polemics."--Kirkus Reviews

"Young has produced a fascinating book. It is also very timely given current debates, both within and beyond psychotherapy, about trauma, abuse and its recovery."--Janet Sayers, British Journal of Psychotherapy

From the Inside Flap

"Young offers a brilliant acount of how post-traumatic stress disorder came into being. His detailed analysis of sessions with Vietnam Vetrens at Vetrens Administration hospitals is one of the finest pieces of up-to-date medical anthropology in existence."--Ian Hacking, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (October 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691017239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691017235
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By HR on January 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is an extraordinarily honest attempt to think outside the institutional box and look for a more complex set of truths. Allan Young was grappling with the experience of seeing the creation of a diagnosis through a political and economic process. He was looking at how that process actually marginalized the people so diagnosed, and limited the resources and attention they received, after being pigeon-holed as having "PTSD". Dr. Young was in no way trivializing the terrible experiences or the suffering experienced by the veterans; on the contrary, he was saying that this diagnosis and the way the diagnosis shaped their treatment was not necessarily either helpful or in their best interests. The negative reviewers of this book either didn't read it or got it exactly backwards. This book is/was a groundbreaking attempt to show that psychiatric diagnoses do not necessarily match the actual experiences of the sufferers, or respond to their real suffering in a helpful way.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Young ideas' are not new. Many psychologists and psychiatrists working with persons in extreme situations have arrived to the same point: PTSD is an ethnocultural invention of Euro American Psychiatry. The so-called "PTSD-symptoms" are frequent. The syndrome is a construct. Allan Young collects evidence in passionate but scientific way. This book is a must for all students of mental health science that want to give to their profession a wider scope than just what one can get from a cookbook of euroamerican diagnosis that blinds more than helps as DSM-IV. Life is much more than DSM-IV and this book contributes to seeing that in an excellent manner.
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19 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a groundbreaking study of a "condition" whose popularity has grown way out of proportion to the limited evidence for its validity as a clinical entity. PTSD fits a profession's need for a "serious" mental disorder that requires psychotherapy as its primary mode of treatment, at a time when medications have come to be seen as the primary treatment from most Axis I psychiatric disorders. Just as importantly it meets the needs of patients who need a "reason" (or perhaps a "culprit") to account for their misery other than the mere fact of being ill. However, close study of the condition itself reveals that there is nothing intrinsic which distinguishes it from garden variety depression with prominent anxiety and intrusive rumination. It has been known since time immemorial that such conditions will arise independently of the issues which may occupy the minds of their sufferers. But now, as a consequence of the socio-historical milieu into which PTSD was born, it has become the favored diagnosis for those who see their emotional troubles as the responsibility of someone else. In this book the nature of that historical milieu is well described. Professor Young has broken a powerful taboo in opening this topic up for discussion, and his remarkable work of scholarship deserves the highest praise.
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