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The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct Paperback – February 23, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0061771224 ISBN-10: 0061771228 Edition: Anv

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Anv edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061771228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061771224
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Bold and often brilliant." -- --Science --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

A classic work that has revolutionized thinking throughout the Western world about the nature of the psychiatric profession and the moral implications of its practices. "Bold and often brilliant."--Science --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

As a person with mental illness, I cannot agree with what Thomas Szasz is saying.
directions
Unfortunately Szasz did not explain the legal procedures American citizens need to take in order to get psychiatry abolished.
Jude Michael Zambarakji
I was facinated by the subject matter but was not very impressed with the writing as I found it a little difficult.
J. R. Hopkins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Thomas Szasz (born 1920) is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center. He is a well-known critic of psychiatry, of the social role of medicine in modern society, and is a social libertarian.

In the Preface to the First Edition (1960) of this book, he writes, "Although my thesis is that mental illness is a myth, this book is not an attempt to 'debunk psychiatry'... although I consider the concept of mental illness to be unserviceable, I believe that psychiatry could be a science. I also believe that psychotherapy is an effective method of helping people---not to recover from an 'illness,' but rather to learn about themselves, others, and life."

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"In this respect---and indeed not only in this respect---psychiatry resembles religion rather than science, politics rather than medicine."
"In ... the traditional psychiatric view, the physician defines what is good or bad, sick or healthy. In the individualistic, autonomous 'psychotherapy' which I prefer, the patient himself defines what is good or bad, sick or healthy."
"By and large, such persons impersonate the roles of helplessness, hopelessness, weakness, and often of bodily illness---when, in fact, their actual roles pertain to frustrations, unhappinesses, and perplexities due to interpersonal, social, and ethical conflicts."
"Mental illness is not something a person has, but is something he does or is."
"There is no medical, moral, or legal justification for involuntary psychiatric interventions. They are crimes against humanity."
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Magnus on May 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
Szasz is identifying a mechanism which prevents us from looking more seriously at the root of the mental patient's problem, namely the social and personal circumstances in which the patient is trapped. He discusses the advantage to both patient and doctor not to identify the true root of the problem and suggests that the situation is best analyzed in game-theoretic terms. He also isn't judgemental of the person playing the game. He feels that they are generally placed in impossible situations, and display these odd behaviors as the most reasonable way to fill genuine needs which would not otherwise be met. This seems to me an important message and I found a lot that interested me in the book. But it doesn't cover many cases including the one that most interests me.

I turned to Szasz because I was interested in how the surge in diagnoses of autism is influenced by the tangled web of social expectations and law. Szasz might say (and I would agree), that autism does not qualify as `mental illness', because it probably has a physiological basis, albeit one which hasn't been identified. However, in the absence of this identification, autism is `treated' primarily by mental health professionals who have as yet to find a `cure'.

Szasz discusses mental illness as if it involves no physiological change whatever, despite the fact that, for example, hallucinations can be drug-induced. When I enjoy the view out my window, that experience is probably associated with some change in my organism. I don't know how objectively they can now distinguish between physiological changes which are structural and those which reflect mere transitory states.
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62 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Dennis B. Roderick, Ph.D on August 4, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Szasz'definitive work should be revisited by all mental health professionals in this new era of "managed care" and its resultant "new mental health system". Although I don't agree with everything that Dr. Szasz claimed in his groundbreaking book, it seems to me that those who considered him a quack and continued the medical model of mental illness for the last 4+ decades have not proven him wrong. We have miserably failed the "mentally ill", "mentally disordered", people with "problems in living", or whatever term one uses these days. The mental health system and its providers these days use the excuse of managed care to explain its failures, but would be better advised to read or reread Dr. Szasz's forewarning of 40 years ago. It is time to rethink the problem, and a good place to start is with the "Myth of Mental Illness"-before the death of the mental health system is upon us.
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43 of 55 people found the following review helpful By G.V. Price on February 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the second book written by Thomas Szasz and is undoubtedly his best known work. The book is a reprint of the 1974 revised edition with a new preface and two new essays. The new material shows Szasz in fine form. Nowadays, it is fashionable to write off Szasz as being a relic, yet I believe his observations are more timely than ever. As Szasz points out, everyone today "knows" that mental illnesses are brain diseases despite an absence of evidence. Mental illness is so much a part of our culture that questioning the concept of mental illness is sure to elict the comment that the doubter should have his head examined.

In addition to this work, my favorite Szasz books include Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences, The Medicalization of Everyday Life, Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America, and A Lexicon of Lunacy: Metaphoric Malady, Moral responsibility, and Psychiatry.

Reading Thomas Szasz is an intellectual delight.
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