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The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct Paperback – February 23, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
I've had some time off recently, so I wanted to really investigate the science behind my disorder. I started with two books on mental health policy over the past 50 years ( "American Psychosis" for a negative take, and "Better but Not Well" for a more positive, mainstream take), then I read the latest psychiatric information about the disorder- the suspected genetic causes , the brain chemistry approach, the neurological evidence from the official peer-reviewed literature. I altogether found it unsatisfying. Everywhere I turned, it was always "While the specific mechanism is unknown, it is believed..." or "While specific genes cannot be found, it does seem to run in families..." Even the neurological explanation didn't seem able to distinguish cause from effect, or come up with any predictive mechanism. I began to really question the mainstream, so I read "Anatomy of an Epidemic", which was an excellent summary of all the research showing that the brain-chemistry model is ineffective. I even investigated my own medication, and found that Lamictal, the primary drug of choice for bipolar treatment, was found to be ineffective in 7 out of 9 clinical trials ( Of course GSK only published the positive two).
All Thomas Szasz really says here is that we can't view mental illness, that is to say, the major mood disorders and psychoses, as normal diseases. We can't pretend that mental illness is some exogenous force that is totally irrelevant of the victim's life experiences, the victims traumas and tragedies, and the victim's behaviors.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thomas Szazs prophetic prediction of where the label "mental illness" would get us is as relevant as it has ever been.Published 3 months ago by Derrick Hoard
Haven't we all run across the elderly rambling family practice doctor who hands out medically irrelevant advice and should have retired decades ago? Well, he wrote a book. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Little Harriet
I am unmedicated mild bipolar (cyclothymia) and it is hard find a pdoc who does not want to fill you with meds willy nilly. I finally found one and I am happy. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Andras M. Nagy
This book it a must read for anyone interested in leaning more about the epistemological nature of psychology and about the recent invention of the mental health field.Published 7 months ago by Matthew Bommarito
I found Szasz to be pretty "out there." I am not a mental health professional,so I am not particularly affected or offended by his criticisms of the profession. Read morePublished 7 months ago by lisle_g
Read it for a grad school class. Awesome. Really interesting. Highly recommend.Published 11 months ago by MC