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Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature Paperback – 29 Apr 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140275401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140275407
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Madness Explained is a substantial, yet highly accessible work. Full of insight and humanity, it deserves a wide readership.' -- The Sunday Times

'Will give readers a glimpse both of answers to their own problems, and to questions about how the mind works' -- The Independent Magazine

About the Author

Richard P. Bentall holds a Chair in Experimental Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester. In 1989 he received the British Psychological Society's May Davidson Award for his contribution to the field of Clinical Psychology.

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It is nearly twenty years since I first walked on to a psychiatric ward. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 158 people found the following review helpful By liz on 16 Feb 2007
Format: Paperback
Confession 1:I am a Psychiatrist.

Confession 2: Before I started this book I was expecting a deeply negative perception of modern psychiatry and little in the way of concrete evidence to support any alternative hypothesis. I anticipated this book to he read mainly by other psychologists, anti-psychiatrists and disgruntled patients.

However, I rapidly discovered that this is not the start of a new anti-psychiatry movement but in fact a fascinating, open-minded review of the current thinking about madness.

The first third of this book should be read by everyone involved in or interested in psychiatry, psychology, or just madness. It is a brilliant and genuinely gripping synthesis of the journey from dark age beliefs about madness to the current concepts. The author makes this potentially dreary history lesson vibrant, relevant and insightful and brings alive many of the key players whose legacies have outlived them, whether deservedly or not.

After this the author then goes on to explore in quite significant detail, the psychological and biological research into psychosis and related conditions. This is predictably heavier going but worth persevering with for the exciting and occasionally startling revelations.

As a result, he fairly comprehensively dismantles the traditional model of psychiatric classification but manages to bring even the most sceptical reader with him through this process.I did not find this as controversial as I expected, as most practising psychiatrists are already aware of the significant overlap in diagnoses and symptoms of these disorders. Richard Bentall then formulates draft models for approaching particular psychiatric symptoms.

There is much less controversial material in this book than I expected.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Vrinda Pendred on 21 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book helps make 'madness' seem much more normal - which I think is a great accomplishment. It lays out the idea of organising symptoms into categories according to what causes most distress to the patient and what does no harm, rather than classifying all symptoms as something to be 'fixed'.

Speaking as someone with Bipolar Disorder (plus other related conditions), I find this approach refreshing. I have several symptoms that carry so much stigma these days, if I try to talk about them with people the general view is that I'm being scary, or possibly even disturbing. Furthermore, I go to the doctors and they want to drug me to get rid of everything 'wrong' with me and flatten my personality...when only 10% of these symptoms are actually causing me any distress!

I have read people's reviews here saying this book leaves things too open-ended and confusing because it removes the diagnostic framework. I can only guess a lot of these people are psychiatrists. Speaking as someone who is not a doctor but who LIVES with such disorders, it is my experience (as well as the experience of dozens of people I've met like me) that the traditional diagnostic criteria are abused in the medical world. These criteria are wonderful for pinpointing what's going on with a person, and helping them find answers and explanations for what troubles them - but people shouldn't be treated purely on this basis.

Bentall's notion to throw out conventional ideas of what is 'mad' and instead provide individualistic treatment for patients, specific to the symptoms that actually cause distress, would be just the sort of healthy overhaul the whole of psychiatrity desperately needs. My only critique was it felt a bit dry at parts, hence only 4 stars - but I will definitely be reading his newest book as well.
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133 of 140 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Oct 2003
Format: Hardcover
Writing as someone who lives with a son labelled 'schizophrenic', I am immensely grateful for this new and authoritative account of madness. Bentall refuses the Cartesian divide, which requires it to be seen either as a brain disease or as 'all in the mind'. He cites a vast array of evidence drawn from neurology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology to show that brain and mind are two aspects of a single system, and that madness and sanity are two ends of a continuum. He also demolishes the century-old myth that there are two distict illnesses, schizophrenia and manic/depressive disorder.
Bentall has a hopeful message to sufferers and their friends and families, though you have to work through a long book to reach it: family therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy do have the potential to help people back towards sanity. The earlier in life these methods are used, the better the chances of returning to normality. Wider public awareness of the early signs of madness and increased investment in providing these therapies could greatly improve mental health.
It would be misleading to compare Bentall with R D Laing, who asserted a great deal without evidence. However, the book would have benefited by reference to Gregory Bateson's 'ecology of mind'. Bentall only once mentions 'Geoffrey' Bateson, whom he dismisses for blaming the family, though Bateson himself thought in terms not of blame but of two-sided breakdowns in communication.
Bateson had the misfortune to write about madness in the 1950s, just at the time when effective drug treatments were found, and psychiatry began fifty years of obsession with pills. It is to be hoped that the new excitement over atypical drugs will not prevent Bentall's message from being heard.
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