Like Szasz, Bentall is highly critical of the official DSM classifications of mental illness, and notes that many people who fit the textbook definitions of mentall illness lead productive and independent lives. In the end, though, to call Bentall a Szaszian is unfair to both. He thinks that we learn as much or more about mental illness with old-fashioned empirical psychology both experimental and field than we do with biochemistry. For example, he finds that West Indian immigrants to Britain have unusually high rates of paranoia. Bentall argues that an old-fashioned psychological explanation — immigrants find it harder to trust and be trusted by? When Marius Romme compared voice-hearers who had been diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness with others who had not, he found remarkably few differences in the experiences of the two groups.

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Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Madness Explained by Richard P. Bentall ,. Aaron T. Beck Foreward. Is madness purely a medical condition that can be treated with drugs? Is there really a clear dividing line between mental health and mental illness - or is it not so easy to classify who is sane and who is insane?

In Madness Explained leading clinical psychologist Richard Bentall shatters the modern myths that surround psychosis. This groundbreaking work argues that we cannot define madness as an illness to be cured like any other; that labels such as 'schizophrenia' and 'manic depression' are meaningless, based on nineteenth-century classifications; and that experiences such as delusions and hearing voices are in fact exaggerations of the mental foibles to which we are all vulnerable.

We need, Bentall argues, a radically new way of thinking about psychiatric problems - one that does not reduce madness to bain chemistry, but understands and accepts it as part of human nature. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published April 29th by Penguin first published June 5th More Details Original Title. British Psychological Society Book Award Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Madness Explained , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Mar 12, Daniel rated it really liked it.

I would have given this book four and a half stars were I able. In any case, I found Bentall's book very accessible from a non-specialist's point of view. Throughout, he argues that Emil Kraepelin's foundational schema for classifying madness into manic depressive and dementia praecox is fraught with a number of problems and should be abandoned. In its place, psychiatrists should take a symptom-oriented approach. Rather than diagnosing a patient with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, psychiatr I would have given this book four and a half stars were I able.

Rather than diagnosing a patient with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, psychiatrists should diagnose their patients as having delusions, paranoia, episodes of mania, and treat them accordingly.

When I checked this book out of the library along with a few of R. Laing's works I didn't think I'd end up reading the whole thing. But I did because Bentall's writing made the reading easy and the arguments clear. Three things I want to point out: 1 More research should be done on bipolar disorder: as Bentall states a number of times, much more effort has been put into studying families and groups of people affected by schizophrenia than has been put into studying those with or affected by bipolar disorder.

So though some drugs are useful for some people I would never dispute this point , drugs are not always necessary. Sometimes therapy or generic medications are better. Bentall does a good job of dispelling the myth that studies always or even often reveal the truth about medication and disorders. More needs to be said about how these two problems relate to mental illnesses. Is there a continuum between them or are they discrete phenomena?

I already know that Bentall would reject the latter option. But how might auras and madness be connected? Is madness really what we think it is? The whole psychiatric industry relies upon the Kraepelian paradigm, whereas there is a well-defined variety of mental illnesses, clearly clear-cut from mental health, each with their own set of symptoms that, eh oh!

Isn't it wonderful? Well, such simplistic view surely serves a whole flourishing and more than profitable market. Yet, is it sound? The question must be asked, because, in the end, it' Is madness really what we think it is? The question must be asked, because, in the end, it's how we treat patients which is at stake. Richard Bentall, an influential clinical psychologist, is cutting here right through the bs in this lengthy book, detailed, well-researched and engrossing even if at times quite challenging.

I loved it, because such demystifying and debunking is more than needed! What are mental illnesses? Well, he starts by detailing the work of Emil Kraepelin, the brilliant German psychiatrist who, at the turn of the 20th century, had defined such conditions as dementia praecox and manic-depression. This approach was brilliant in discerning different symptoms as patterns to different illnesses, but, this obsession to classify, according to Bentall, is also what failed Kraepelin Indeed, dementia praecox is now known as schizophrenia, manic-depression as bipolar, and the way we define both doesn't bear much ressemblance to how Kraepelin himself had described them!

How such conditions came to be studied, described, and redefined over the past century is in fact a telling lesson about how fleeting and arbitrary such labellings are. This is where he then goes on straight to the point: focusing on some features at the core of their definitions eg psychosis, language and communication issues, behaviours like mania and hypomania Here's to another blow against the Kraepelian paradigm: not only our defining of specific illnesses remains vague and unhelpful, but, the supposed well-defined line between 'madness' and 'normal' psychosis are a case in point is blurred to say the least.

Now, let's be very clear: he doesn't in any way dilute or minimise the challenging and harrowing fate of sufferers, and this is not an anti-psychiatry manifesto. What he does by challenging how we define madness, and so various mental illnesses, is to show that, as a result, patients are being failed. Being a clinical psychologist himself, his indictment can seem harsh. And yet The problem with modern psychiatry is not only that it meaninglessly tries and fit people into very ill-shaped boxes 'schizophrenia', 'bipolar' The problem is that diagnoses are based on a flawed view of mental illness, whereas such disorders are perceived as being solely due to chemical imbalance in the brain, which, therefore, can only be addressed by chemicals prescribed to restore such balance.

Richard Bentall, of course, doesn't reject such biological outlook! He just regrets its reductionism - what about the environment? Not taking into account the background, experience, personal history, and surrounding environment of the patient is to be blind to the underlying reason and triggers to their condition; an approach which cannot but lead to a poor way to address them.

The neoKraepelian project of an exclusively biological psychiatry has been doomed to failure from the outset. If classifying mental illnesses is everything but as straightforward as classifying plants, if what is considered as the main features of mental illnesses eg psychosis especially turn out to don't be the sole prerogative of the insane after all, and if persisting in fitting vague symptoms with specific illnesses does nothing but confusing it all even more the evolution of the DSM is a case in point then what of mental illness itself?

How to define it? How to address it? The author proposes here a ground-breaking and radical new approach: 'We should abandon psychiatric diagnoses altogether and instead try to explain and understand the actual experiences and behaviours of psychotic patients.

I don't know if such approach will ultimately triumph there are already some therapies out there valuing medications as much as patient history but here's a radical read which, in depth, throws a bright new light upon what we call 'madness'.

Again, it can be tedious and challenging at times, but the arguments put forward to demystify how mental illnesses are being defined are compelling to say the least. Richard Bentall's proposals may or may not turn out to be the founding basis to a new paradigm, but his book here surely is a fascinating read for anyone interested in mental health. May 22, Holly rated it really liked it Shelves: informational-nonfiction , embodiment-illness-medicine. I have been a fan of Bentall's ever since the early s, when Harper's published an excerpt from his "Proposal to Classify Happiness as a Psychiatric Disorder.

I dutifully tracked down the original, and it was just as clever, insightful and deadpan funny as I expected. So when I came across a mention of this book recently, I had to read it. It was interesting and informative but OMG is it a slog. The book is intended to be intelligible to a lay au I have been a fan of Bentall's ever since the early s, when Harper's published an excerpt from his "Proposal to Classify Happiness as a Psychiatric Disorder.

The book is intended to be intelligible to a lay audience and persuasive for a professional one, so it has plenty of background info to bring average readers up to speed as well as detailed explanations to answer specialists' objections to Bentall's arguments. Here are two small examples of the explanations provided for readers very ignorant of the basics involved in the discussion, including the fact that research into madness occurs in many different countries around the globe: it has been suggested that the average age at which women develop schizophrenia symptoms is later than the average for men because the female hormone oestrogen confers protection against psychosis apparently, oestrogen shares some of the pharmacological properties of the neuroleptics, the class of drugs most widely used in the treatments of psychotic patients.

But seriously: who doesn't know that oestrogen is "the female hormone"? Why did that label need to be included? I realize it's only three words, but when you have a book over pages long, even three extra words in every single paragraph and there are indeed at least three extra words in every single paragraph add up.


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Your saved articles can be found here. Join now to start saving articles today. People get angry with Prof Bentall. They are rude at his seminars; they fume at his conference presentations, and they tell him his ideas are dangerous — all of which he records with a disingenuous air of bemusement; the insouciance of the seasoned controversialist. The point of this book is to stir things up. Its central contention is that the orthodox medical approach to understanding madness is deeply flawed. Too many psychiatrists adhere to a crude biological reductionism, assuming that the root causes of mental disorder are to be found.


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