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They Say You're Crazy: How The World's Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who's Normal Paperback – March 4, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 4, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201488329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201488326
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Self-Defeating Personality Disorder, Nicotine Dependence, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder-these are some of the 400 "mental illnesses" described in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic bible, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Caplan (The Myth of Women's Masochism), a psychologist and former consultant to the DSM, compellingly argues that "much of what is labeled 'mental illness' would more appropriately be called problems in living." In a disturbing insider's look at how the mental health establishment decides who is normal and who is "sick," she charges that the DSM board's decision-making process, dominated by a handful of conservative white male psychiatrists, is arbitrary, condescending, profit-driven and riddled with personal biases and political consideration. Facile labeling of personality problems, she shows, can cause personal suffering as well as material harm because DSM categories figure prominently in who wins child custody, who gets hospitalized against their will and whose psychotherapy is covered by insurance. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Psychologist Caplan shows how the American Psychiatric Association's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, lacks the scientific basis claimed for it. Drawing on her years as an adviser-consultant to various related APA committees, she brings to light the association's lack of interest in outsiders' views and the sloppy design and execution of the research it accepts as authoritative. Caplan cites two diagnostic entities, self-defeating personality disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, not only to demonstrate the association's narrow-mindedness and sloppy scientific manners but also to underline the dangers of labeling individuals or groups with such designations. The APA is aided, wittingly or not, by news media reliance on association news releases and the association's biased use of language, and the problems caused thereby affect women in particular, for APA material is also used for political and social purposes. William Beatty --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Ksuzy on April 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Caplan spends a lot of time developing an ideology around what American society views as normal and what it doesn't, and how we come up with those categories, as well as the consequences for those who don't happen to fit into the "normal" category. One of her main premises is that because of the categories in the DSM, women can almost never be categorized as normal. She further describes her journey in trying to keep particular categories out of the book that would have marginalized women further, using scientific data that actually refuted the non-scientific process the psychiatrists used to place categories and their criteria in the book. It was sometimes something as "lofty" as, "My wife has that symptom." "Oh, well, we'll take that one out then."
Her book is powerful, because it demonstrates the social construction of concepts like "normal," the power of labeling people "abnormal," the relative power and authority one must have to label someone "abnormal," and how much easier it has been for males to do it to females in the medical (esp. the mental health) establishment because until recently, females have been kept out of medicine.
Because her book is coming from such a strong "powerful vs. the powerless" perspective, it does lack a strong point that could have made this a more balanced view, and that is how individuals, even though they may lack power relative to the "labelers," can be complicit in their labeling.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Richard J. Brzostek VINE VOICE on October 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
Paula J. Caplan's book They Say You're Crazy: How the World's Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who's Normal questions the validity of the DSM. Although psychiatrists claim that their manual is based on science, this is not always the case. Dr. Caplan describes how psychiatrists that decide who is normal "...too often slot people into categories for politically, economically, and emotionally charged reasons while pretending that they are operating in a solidly scientific way" (p. 34).
Caplan is a clinical psychologist and a feminist that criticizes mental disorders that are specifically for women. Regardless of the author's motivation for fighting these "disorders" and speaking out against them, she exposes many startling aspects of psychiatry. Disorders are voted into existence with little or no empirical evidence. Caplan comments on the DSM:
"To the untutored eye, and even to many mental health personnel, the DSM appears grounded in science, although many features that give this impression turn out on inspection to provide only a veneer of scientific sheen rather than genuine, carefully supported research. (p.186)"
Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book were where the author describes her personal experience working with the DSM committees for PMDD and SDPD. However, it is not much of a story because the committees did not really want her involvement, and left her out of most of the process. This aspect of the book is a unique contribution to the works of DSM criticism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Clinical and research psychologist Paula Caplan wrote in the Preface to this 1995 book, "I have written this book ... to help people see how decisions are made about who is normal. I believe that knowing how such decisions are made can help a person overcome the damage that is done to so many who are called---or who consider themselves---abnormal... As a former consultant to those who construct the world's most influential manual of alleged mental illness, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Dsm-Iii-R, I have had an insider's look at the process by which decisions about abnormality are made." (Pg. xv)

She says, "Much of what is labeled 'mental illness' would more appropriately be called problems in living... What IS important for this book is that, although some DSM diagnoses supposedly have some physical origin... ALL of that labeling is based on the DSM folks' choices about whom to declare abnormal." (Pg. xvii) She also adds, "I do intend this to be an anti-elitism book, since I want us all to be able to make an informed assessment of the people we allow to decide whether or not you and I and our loved ones are normal." (Pg. xxii)

She notes, "a team of researchers in the United States... found 'that nearly half of all Americans experience a psychiatric disorder at least once in their lifetime,' 14 percent have three or more, and 30 percent have had one in the preceding year alone... (And this study was based only only SOME of the many disorders included in the DSM.)" (Pg. 6) Later, she points out, "The DSM-IV includes Minor Depressive Disorder.
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