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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 PsychiatricAssociation.
American Psychiatric Publishing, 947 pp., £97, May 2013, 978 0 89042 555 8
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... in 1994. The DSM is the standard – and standardising – work of reference issued by the American PsychiatricAssociation, 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 youth in the US, travelled to Vienna and returned as Dr Freud’s Wunderkind ...

Before Foucault

Roy Porter, 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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... disease’ is a misnomer, fiction or, worse still, a fraud. In 1973, following a postal vote, the American PsychiatricAssociation removed homosexuality from its roster of mental illnesses: what clearer admission of hopeless confusion between disease and deviancy? All these problems – of definition, demarcation and ...

Call a kid a zebra

Daniel Smith: On the Spectrum, 19 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 Wing, who died in 2014. For decades a member of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, Wing was a pioneering clinician, epidemiologist and researcher ...

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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... 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 class lines. ‘Officers complain of nightmares and ...

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 he is that his latest book has appeared at this particular stage in the history of our culture’s reflections on medicine – or rather, by now he is: I happen to know that recently he was shown Ian Kennedy’s Reith Lectures (which, highly indebted to Szasz without acknowledgment, criticise him for what he hasn’t said), and has decided to remain silent ...

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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... disorder before 1980, when it was introduced in the DSM-III – the diagnostic manual of the American PsychiatricAssociation – 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 with ...

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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... 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’t last: the crushing effect of detention on a ...

Give Pot a Chance

Roy Porter, 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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... 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 treatment that actually works. The irony is that the ...

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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... 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 controversial end: the incorporation of psychedelics ...

The Me Who Knew It

Jenny Diski, 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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... 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 ...


Jon Day: Hoardiculture, 8 September 2022

... an offshoot of OCD, but in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American PsychiatricAssociation, ‘hoarding disorder’ was given its own entry. DSM-5 defines it as the ‘persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value’, which prompts ...

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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... 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 to find a precise pathophysiology for seemingly ...

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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... 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 ever remarked and dreams I doubt were ever ...


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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... 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 occurs when one or more individuals (males, in most known ...

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