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)|
The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct is a 1961 book by Thomas Szasz. Perhaps the best known argument against the tendency of psychiatrists to label people who are "disabled by living" as mentally ill, it was described by David Cooper as "a decisive, carefully documented demystification of psychiatric diagnostic labelling in general."
Szasz says 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.
Szasz argues that mental illness is a myth used to disguise moral conflicts. The book criticizes psychiatry and says that psychiatry should not be taken seriously. It provided an intellectual foundation for mental patient advocates and anti-psychiatry activists. It became very well known in the mental health professions and was well received by those sceptical of modern psychiatry, but made Szasz an enemy of many doctors. Szasz said that involuntary commitment and other coercive treatments were unethical and unscientific.
Richard Webster notes 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.
- Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. pp. 595–596. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4.
- Cooper, David (1978). The Language of Madness. London: Allen Lane. p. 129. ISBN 0-7139-1118-2.
- 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.
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