A review of two books that critique psychiatry

Excerpt from the NewScientist:

Treatment and its failures are the burden of Irving Kirsch’s The Emperor’s New Drugs and Richard Bentall’s Doctoring the Mind. The books’ subtitles signal intent: Kirsch’s is a ballistic “Exploding the antidepressant myth“. Bentall’s, interestingly, differs between US and UK editions: “Why psychiatric treatments fail” for the UK, and “Is our current treatment of mental illness really any good?” for the US.

The latter’s tentative tone may be a wise move since the US psychiatric community seems to be in even more serious meltdown than its British counterpart. Big Pharma faces legal action over the effects of antidepressants, Congress is demanding financial transparency from psychiatrists working on the DSM V due out in 2011, individuals scour the net for help, and activists struggle to find viable alternatives to drugs.
Bentall’s book is a shorter, more accessible version of his Madness Explained (Penguin, 2004) and is full of stories about his patients. As a therapist, Bentall is a gentle, non-judging voice; as a polemicist, though, he is deeply unimpressed with psychiatry’s progress. We are, he says, still attached to the “myth” of mental illnesses as brain disease, and despite claims of dramatic advances, patients are doing no better than they did 100 years ago.

Shockingly, people in the west are less likely to recover than those in poorer countries. Kindness and empathy are missing from the system. Drugs dominate but they don’t work well: it’s time to prescribe them only on a suck-it-and-see basis, Bentall says. (entire article)

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