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Making Us Crazy: DSM - The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders (Psychology/self-help) Paperback – 16 Aug 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (16 Aug. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0094797102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0094797109
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.8 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 527,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
Attention all mental health practitioners! Do you strive to be "evidence based" in all that you do? Do you accept only scientific studies as constituting "evidence" on topics of diagnosis and treatment?
Most importantly, do you choose to refer to the DSM-IV (or earlier editions) to make definitive, scientific diagnoses?
Well, read this book to have your blinkers removed! The authors (a professor of social work and a professor of social care) argue persuasively that a large number of the identified behavioural disorders are defined because of political, social and economic reasons, sometimes with no scientific backing at all - sometimes even in direct contradiction to scientific evidence available.
This book however is no "anti-psychiatry" rant. Instead, the authors acknowledge the "reality" of mental illness, and the pain and suffering that it causes to many people and their families.
What they do object to is the increasing "medicalisation" of behaviours which never before have been considered "disorders" and which stigmatises the individual AND significantly alters peoples' rights in areas such as the courts and employment.
Don't unthinkingly refer to the DSM in the assumption that it is a valid, scientific this book and have your assumptions about mental disorders challenged.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Dec. 2000
Format: Hardcover
This was on my wish list and some kind soul bought it for me. This was a book I couldn't put down. Some of the articles are disturbing as some things we take for granted about mental illness appear to have been made up by social and environmental stigma. SPOOKY!!!!
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By Book-Lot UK on 27 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
interesting read but I found some of the 'arguments' overly critical and 'clutching at straws', albeit the book as a whole is quite interesting and really makes you think twice about the DSM and it's use.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jackson on 26 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
never trust a book on which the name of the person who wrote the foreword features in larger letters than the person who actually wrote the book.
if even the front cover is trying to con you, the rest aint gonna be much good.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Important Book, if not always an easy read 27 Sept. 2000
By Nancy E. Macdonald - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of us who eagerly consume critiques of the mental health industry, this book is not necessarily what we have come to expect. I often expect what amounts to a quick adrenalin rush, with horror stories of abuse by the system driving me to the barricades. Kutchins and Kirk do not provide a quick rush, nor even a quick read. But when you find yourself on the barricades, they do give you the ammunition.
This is a very detailed social/political history of the DSM, in and out of committee meetings and individual correspondence, providing the evidence of the point made so well by others such as Kaplan: that the DSM is in fact a political document, evolving to suit conflicting political and financial interests. More than a story of good guys and bad guys, much of this history includes the sad moral of unintended consequences, as in the fight to get PTSD into the DSM.
I teach undergraduate psychology, and I applaud the authors' coherent explanations of technical issues such as reliablity and validity of assessment. My teaching experience informs me that this is a tedious exercise for most students, and, I assume, for the educated lay readership to whom Kutchins and Kirk appeal. But it is critical to the central theme of the story: the misuse of the aura of science to mask a fundamentally political process.
Are there victims and villains of this process? Of course, and they are the usual villains: a system of managed care, and a variety of bureaucracies and agencies pursuing government funding, grants and influence based on ultimately manipulated numbers. And the usual victims: the over-labelled, over-prescribed and stigmatized recipients of "care".
The story wanders through so many mazes that a reader may lose the thread: PTSD, homosexuality, female masochism, borderline personality disorder. Each story differs in who started the process of getting a diagnosis in or out of the DSM, the motivation for doing so, the outcome of the fight, and the specific consequences. Fortunately, the authors provide an excellent summary in the last chapter, and weave those threads back together.
More than once in reading this book, I found myself thinking that every political or social issue fight needs its policy wonks. Kutchins and Kirk may be our wonks.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An extremely important book 29 Jan. 2006
By Russell W. Carrington - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Those who give this book a one star rating most likely have interests that are being threatened. Drug company representatives? Drug prescribers? So, pull down the average rating and reduce the number of people who buy it. It's what the republicans try to do to Al Franken's books.

The book conveys facts in a neutral, understated tone, and from those facts develops reasonable beliefs. Which ideas did you disagree with? That the diagnostic categories lack reliability and validity? That DSM has been shaped more by special interests than by science? That the criteria for each diagnosis are purely arbitrary?

Read the book. You'll think twice about letting someone you care about be diagnosed.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Well argued, Well Written, A Work With Vast Implications For the Mental Health Industry 9 Dec. 2005
By Justin M. Teerlinck - Published on
Format: Paperback
This expose represents the most thorough documentation that psychiatry is a psuedo-science to date. The proof that psychiatry is no more (and possibly much less) than the mere sum of its internal politics is amply provided by the authors in the form of personal correspondance between the brightest minds and most powerful leaders of the discipline. For the impatient or the semi-literate, a long, slow read lies ahead. For those with an eye for detail, prepare to witness the unraveling of the most influential scientific institution in America, decades in the making. According to this book shouting matches, voting, back door meetings and boycotts were the "data" that came to comprise what most people believe is a scientific definition of mental illness, the DSM-IV in a process that better resembles the way a legsilature works as opposed to scientific research. The authors take great care to not inflate the value of their findings. The book is written by a journalist and a social worker and was not vetted or peer reviewed by Scientologists, angry parents of drugged kids, or psychiatrists--and this provides the most convincing evidence of its overall credibility. Really, this is a rare work of valid, honest journalism covering a subject that is mostly the domain of anonymous hotheads and arrogant "experts" all of whom are making claims without evidence in service of their own personal or professional objectives. In this sea of muckety-muck, this book is an island of reason.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Putting the DSM in perspective. 18 Dec. 2007
By B. Nolan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book to flesh out my own background in the history of the DSM for a History of Psychology class that I am teaching. I found the book insightful, informative, and well written. I would recommend it to anyone who has interest in the politics behind the creation of the DSM.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Herb Kutchins is a professor at CSU Sacramento. Stuart A. Kirk is a former psychiatric social worker, who holds the Marjorie Crump Chair in Social Welfare at UCLA.

They wrote in the Preface to this 1997 book, "It is precisely because issues of psychiatric diagnosis, commentary by psychiatrists on all manner of social issues, and the use of medical authority are so ubiquitous in our lives and because we are so vulnerable to the misuse of psychiatric diagnosis and authority that we wrote this book. There is a growing tendency in our society to medicalize problems that are not medical, to find psychopathology where there is only pathos, and to pretend to understand phenomena by merely giving them a label and a code number... in this book we question the legitimacy of this tendency and describe its risks. To pursue this goal, we take the reader into the world of the psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)... As the authoritative manual of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), DSM defines, classifies, and describes what the association says are mental illnesses." (Pg. x) They add, "In this book we examine critically how the APA creates categories of mental disorders.... we trace how the psychiatric profession struggles with various political constituencies to create categories of mental disorder and to garner support for their official acceptance." (Pg. 15-16)

They note, "The psychiatrists had to fight with the psychologists' association over professional turf. The dispute arose when Robert Spitzer... attempted to develop a general definition of mental disorder... When he presented his ideas ... he made the assertion that 'mental disorders are a subset of medical disorders.' This statement... attempted to establish that mental disorders are fully within the province of medicine, a notion that caused a storm of protest from the American Psychological Association... when DSM-III was released in 1980, the disputed passage had been dropped. What was learned, however, was that defining mental disorders is not only conceptually difficult but also politically controversial." (Pg. 30)

They say, "Most of these changes passed without controversy, until feminist psychotherapists confronted the APA about the proposed inclusion of three new psychiatric disorders, which they viewed as having serious negative consequences for women---Paraphilic Rapism, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, and Masochistic Personality Disorder." (Pg. 47)

They record, "Spitzer ... was dissatisfied with the definition of mental disorder he had used to justify replacing the psychiatric diagnosis of homosexuality with Sexual Orientation Disorder in DSM-II... it finally appeared... as Ego-dystonic Homosexuality (EDH)... The adoption of EDH proves that not every change in DSM was the result of outside political pressure or new scientific evidence... There was some opposition to EDH... Gay activists decided against another public battle, one they feared they might lose... The wisdom of the gay activists' decision was confirmed in 1987, when Ego-dystonic Homosexuality was quietly eliminated from ... DSM-III-R." (Pg. 78) They observe, "Throughout the entire struggle over the inclusion or exclusion of homosexuality from DSM, the minor role played by scientific research has been striking... it was a political debate, not a scientific one." (Pg. 99)

This is an excellent, very informative book, that will be of great interest to a wide variety of readers interested in issues relating to psychiatry and psychology.
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