Szasz provides a fascinating, brilliantly researched look at the historic origins of psychiatry's efforts to invent a medical role for itself. Examining the letters and papers of Freud, Charcot and many other late 19th century psychopathologists, up to the present, Szasz makes compelling arguments that psychiatry has been reassigning social nonconformity to the role of disease.
Individuals whose behaviors were once considered sinful, unconventional, or otherwise unwanted, can now be forced to undergo a "cure." In its role as "doctor," psychiatry functions to exert social control and dominance over its "patients--" many of whom are coerced and destroyed by what psychiatry pretends will heal them.
In a blackly humorous way, by its own standards of mental illness, psychiatry has arguably become a disease in itself. Its practitioners are marked by symptoms of grandiosity, narcissism, and excessive controlling behaviors to the point of psychotic obsession and delusions of power over other lives. One suspects that beneath the grandiosity lies an essential mediocrity and an overwhelming need to reduce others to a lowest common denominator, so as to assert the superiority of the psychiatrists, and thus overcome their own innate insecurities at having been so ordinary. To compensate for this insecurity, they punish what is different, and plow seeds of self doubt into the consciousness of their targets.