The Myth of Mental Illness
|The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct|
The 1962 Secker & Warburg edition
|Published||1961 (Harper & Row)|
|Pages||337 (Secker & Warburg edition)
297 (Perennial Library edition)
The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct is a 1961 book by Thomas Szasz, who questions psychiatry's foundations and argues against the tendency of psychiatrists to label people who are "disabled by living" as mentally ill.
Szasz argues that mental illnesses are not real in the sense that cancers are real. Except for a few identifiable brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, there are “neither biological or chemical tests nor biopsy or necropsy findings for verifying or falsifying DSM diagnoses”. There are no objective methods for detecting the presence or absence of mental disease.
The Myth of Mental Illness is a well known argument against the tendency of psychiatrists to label people who are "disabled by living" as mentally ill. Published at a vulnerable moment for psychiatry, when Freudian theorizing was just beginning to fall out of favor, the book provided an intellectual foundation for mental patient advocates and anti-psychiatry activists. It became well known in the mental health professions and was favorably received by those sceptical of modern psychiatry, but made Szasz an enemy of many doctors.
The philosopher Karl Popper, in a 1961 letter to Szasz, called the book admirable and fascinating, adding that, "It is a most important book, and it marks a real revolution." Psychiatrist David Cooper writes that The Myth of Mental Illness, like R. D. Laing's The Divided Self (1960), proved stimulating in the development of anti-psychiatry, though he notes that neither book is itself an anti-psychiatric work. He describes Szasz's work as "a decisive, carefully documented demystification of psychiatric diagnostic labelling in general."
Cultural historian Richard Webster notes in Why Freud Was Wrong (1995) that some of Szasz's arguments are similar to his, but that their views of hysteria and the work of Jean-Martin Charcot are quite different, since Szasz assumes that hysteria was an emotional problem and that Charcot's patients were not genuinely mentally ill.
- On the 1962 Secker & Warburg edition, the book is subtitled, "A critical assessment of the Freudian Approach" on the cover
- Thomas Szasz (2008). "Psychiatry:The Science of Lies". pp. 2–5.
- Carey, Benedict (September 11, 2012). "Dr. Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist Who Led Movement Against His Field, Dies at 92". New York Times.
- Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. pp. 595–596. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4.
- Buchanan-Barker, P; Barker, P (February 2009). "The convenient myth of Thomas Szasz". Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Hursing 16 (1): 87–95. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2850.2008.01310.x. PMID 19192090.
- Cooper, David (1978). The Language of Madness. London: Allen Lane. pp. 128–129. ISBN 0-7139-1118-2.
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