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Lost in the Forest

Ian Hacking: Who needs the DSM?

8 August 2013
DSM-5: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition 
by the American Psychiatric Association.
American Psychiatric​ Publishing, 947 pp., £97, May 2013, 978 0 89042 555 8
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... The new edition of the DSM replaces DSM-IV, which appeared in 1994. The DSM is the standard – and standardising – work of reference issued by the AmericanPsychiatricAssociation, but its influence reaches into every nook and cranny of psychiatry, everywhere. Hence its publication has been greeted by a flurry of discussion, hype and hostility across all media, both ...

Neurotic Health

Michael Shepherd

17 December 1981
Becoming Psychiatrists 
by Donald Light.
Norton, 429 pp., £10.95, June 1981, 0 393 01168 2
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... In April 1979 a cover-story in Time Magazine, always a sensitive indicator of American public opinion, was entitled ‘Psychiatry on the Couch’. The verdict was unequivocal, even though expressed in the form of a mock-clinical formulation:   History: European-born. After sickly ...

Call a kid a zebra

Daniel Smith: On the Spectrum

18 May 2016
In a Different Key: The Story of Autism 
by John Donvan and Caren Zucker.
Allen Lane, 670 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 1 84614 566 7
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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently 
by Steve Silberman.
Allen and Unwin, 534 pp., £9.99, February 2016, 978 1 76011 364 3
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... As psychiatric concepts go,​ autism has proved uncommonly susceptible to interpretation, appropriation and expansion. And few people have done as much to influence the world’s understanding of autism as Lorna ...

The Beast on My Back

Gerald Weissmann

6 June 1996
The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
by Allan Young.
Princeton, 327 pp., £28, March 1996, 0 691 03352 8
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... numbing effects of such battlefield nightmares are relatively short-lived; for some they last a lifetime. The more permanently affected were said in the past to have been ‘touched with fire’ (the American Civil War), suffering from ‘shell-shock’ (World War One) or afflicted by ‘traumatic neurosis’ (World War Two). In each instance the symptoms that patients displayed seemed to split along ...
25 January 1990
The Normal and the Pathological 
by Georges Canguilhem, translated by Carolyn Fawcett and Robert Cohen.
Zone, 327 pp., £21.95, June 1989, 0 942299 58 2
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... run beyond the organic? Thomas Szasz in particular has long contended that the very term ‘mental disease’ is a misnomer, fiction or, worse still, a fraud. In 1973, following a postal vote, the AmericanPsychiatricAssociation removed homosexuality from its roster of mental illnesses: what clearer admission of hopeless confusion between disease and deviancy? All these problems – of definition ...

Untruthful Sex

Hans Keller

6 August 1981
Sex: Facts, Frauds and Follies 
by Thomas Szasz.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £8.95, July 1981, 0 631 12736 4
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... Otherwise identical with last year’s American edition, the English version has abandoned the original title, Sex by Prescription – in order, it appears, to gratify the author’s veritable passion for alliteration. He isn’t aware how lucky ...

Which came first, the condition or the drug?

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen: Bipolar Disorder

7 October 2010
Mania: A Short History of Bipolar Disorder 
by David Healy.
Johns Hopkins, 296 pp., £16.50, May 2008, 978 0 8018 8822 9
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... Romans in search of an explanation. There are good reasons for this. Very few people had heard of bipolar disorder before 1980, when it was introduced in the DSM-III – the diagnostic manual of the AmericanPsychiatricAssociation – and it was only in 1996 that a group of doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital, led by Joseph Biederman and Janet Wozniak, first proposed that some children diagnosed ...

Terrorist for Sale

Jeremy Harding: Guantánamo

5 November 2009
The Guantánamo Effect: Exposing the Consequences of US Detention and Interrogation Practices 
by Laurel Fletcher and Eric Stover.
California, 210 pp., £10.95, October 2009, 978 0 520 26177 8
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... to be the exceptions: most of the respondents were released within three days of their return. For some, the taint of Guantánamo has stuck: they were greeted with suspicion, whether as terrorists or American spies, and even threatened in their local communities, especially if home happened to be in Europe. Others, treated as heroes, came back to lavish celebrations, though it was clear the party couldn ...
8 June 1995
Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine 
by Lester Grinspoon, edited by James Bakalar.
Yale, 184 pp., £7.95, April 1995, 0 300 05994 9
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... obtained through cannabis than with officially-prescribed medications. Some of their evidence stems from papers published in regular medical journals, but most is from first-hand accounts written by (American) sufferers. These testimonies are moving and often angry. They tell of great pain suffered while undergoing surgery or a series of ineffective prescription medications, followed by the discovery of a ...

Who gets to trip?

Mike Jay: Psychedelics

27 September 2018
How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics 
by Michael Pollan.
Allen Lane, 465 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 0 241 29422 2
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Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds 
by Lauren Slater.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £20, February 2018, 978 0 316 37064 6
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... the success of the researchers and campaigners generating the stories. Early in his survey of ‘the new science of psychedelics’, Michael Pollan talks to Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), pioneers of therapeutic research into MDMA, LSD and ayahuasca, who is candid about his choice of the medical paradigm as ‘a means to a more ambitious and still more ...
9 February 2012
Memory: Fragments of a Modern History 
by Alison Winter.
Chicago, 319 pp., £19.50, January 2012, 978 0 226 90258 6
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... this period so many women dredged up so many memories of sexual abuse that after criminal charges and civil litigation brought by both parents and children against each other peaked in the 1990s, the American Medical Association finally declared, as Winter reports, ‘that recovered memories were “of uncertain authenticity” and needed “external verification”’. The AmericanPsychiatric ...

We Are All Victims Now

Thomas Laqueur: Trauma

8 July 2010
The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood 
by Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, translated by Rachel Gomme.
Princeton, 305 pp., £44.95, July 2009, 978 0 691 13752 0
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... before the 19th century and whether their incidence has gone up or down over the centuries. But as a morally and medically exigent category, PTSD didn’t exist before the late 19th century. The American Civil War is the first war for which there exist relatively abundant medical records that allow retroactive diagnosis of symptoms close to our modern concept of trauma as an interior wound. Anxious ...

Strangers

John Lanchester

11 July 1991
Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American​ Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... on both sides of the Atlantic, have recently provided the material for works by artists as different from each other as P.D. James, DV8 Physical Dance Theatre and David Lynch. Stephen Egger, an American academic and former policeman who wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the phenomenon, gives a definition/description of serial murder in Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon: A serial murder ...

Rhythm Method

Jenny Diski

22 September 1994
R.D. Laing: A Biography 
by Adrian Laing.
Peter Owen, 248 pp., £25, August 1994, 0 7206 0934 8
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... the alienated. If that seems obvious now, we have Laing and his fellow theorists to thank for it. At the time it came as something of a revelation, not least because there was an audience beyond the psychiatric community primed by the Zeitgeist of the late Fifties and early Sixties to fall on their ideas and make much – too much, perhaps – of them. I was a member of that wider audience. When Volume One ...

Seeing things

Rosemary Dinnage

4 December 1980
The Story of Ruth 
by Morton Schatzman.
Duckworth, 306 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 7156 1504 1
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... packaging that will repel the averagely fastidious reader. Duckworth have printed it in type about one size smaller than that of a Janet and John reader, and sub-titled it ‘one woman’s haunting psychiatric odyssey’. Morton Schatzman, who is the author of an interesting book on the 19th-century lunatic Daniel Schreber, has written it in fruitiest Reader’s Digestese, replete with remarks I doubt were ...

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