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The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct [Paperback]

Thomas S. Szasz
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2010

50th Anniversary Edition With a New Preface and Two Bonus Essays

The most influential critique of psychiatry ever written, Thomas Szasz's classic book revolutionized thinking about the nature of the psychiatric profession and the moral implications of its practices. By diagnosing unwanted behavior as mental illness, psychiatrists, Szasz argues, absolve individuals of responsibility for their actions and instead blame their alleged illness. He also critiques Freudian psychology as a pseudoscience and warns against the dangerous overreach of psychiatry into all aspects of modern life.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Revised edition edition (1 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061771228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061771224
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Thomas S. Szasz, M.D., is professor emeritus of psychiatry at the State University of New York in Syracuse, where he has taught since 1956.


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First Sentence
Since the modern concept of hysteria was cut from the cloth of malingering, and since the physician most responsible for establishing "hysteria" as a medically legitimate illness was Charcot, I shall start with an examination of his work; and I shall then trace the development of the concept of hysteria to the present time. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. 6 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want an antidote to the drug companies and psychiatiry this is the book to read.

Or any of the numerous other books by Sasz. In the words of bob Dylan - When will they ever learn
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic psychiatry!! 17 April 2012
By Steve92
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is seminal work, that is just as valid today as when written. As a nurse that has worked for many years with people who struggle through life with a pattern of non adaptivew coping strategies, this book increases an understandng of the futility of applying the medical model. I recomend you read it!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Szasz knows the truth ! 25 Nov 2011
Format:Paperback
The first time I came into contact with Thomas Szasz was in the spring of 1980, my last year in high school. The book was about anti-psychiatry and the way society was responsible for many mental problems. Later when I studied medicine my grandmother bought me another Szasz book (she was also born in Hungary) because i was studying Freud and Adler. His books changed my view on the topic of mental illnesses and psychiatry. He calls Psychiatry, the science of lies in his last work, he is not telling lies, he is very close to the truth. "The subject matter of psychiatry is neither minds nor mental diseases, but lies ...." After more than 25 years at the university, I went back to real science, I felt that social science does not stand the test of real science, psychiatry is not a science, but a tool for society to eliminate unwanted subjects. If you look closely to forensic psychiatry, how it works, what it says .... you can spot the lie, you can smell deceit from a distance. Szasz is the scientific knight who pulled the veil of Maya away from psychiatry and psychology !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!! 8 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thomas Szasz writes logically and succinctly about the fact that so called "mental illness" does not exist. In this day and age with big Pharma attempting to drug everyone on the planet and convince us we're all in need of medication it's hard to imagine that it is a big fraud. But it is. Read and learn how it all started. Then read his later books such as Psychiatry- The Science of Lies. Get enlightened and fight back- while you still can.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Charge into the Very Light Brigade 16 Sep 2012
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Szasz is not saying there is no such thing as human distress, he agress with that. It is just the labels and diagnoses that are attached to the person who exhibits a categorised "illness." Mental illness cannot be found in the body as a disease or a genetic change, therefore he sets out to highlight how psychiatry invented the disorers.

The basic belief being that psychological illnesses do not exist, as in a pathogene, or the body changing its infrastructure irrevocably. There is no bipolar, autism, schizo, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, anorexia gene. There is however a belief these genes exist and huge expenditure is placed upon finding them. All based on the perception that human beings are clockwork toys that lack certain chemicals just like a car or a robot. The views arrive from a sense of making the human being into a robot regardless of veracity. Szasz begins to talk apart the constructs within this book, piece by piece, and it makes very uncomfortable reading for any psych doctor, nurse etc.

The first and fundamental error of psych science, it all rests upon belief, just the same as religion. It needs adherents and people to spread the message. Then it needs to take out dissenters. Into the silo huge industries arise based on keeping the real causes of misery a mystery - the social structures created to make sense of the world and negating the emotional world at the expense of abstracts.

Szasz dons his armour, takes his sword and charges ahead into the mass ranks of the believers and they all melt into thin air, because their genetic beliefs are tissue paper. However this tissue paper is encoded in the belief systems of those who need to believe. It is this which keeps it all intact.

An insightful book written to take apart the modern fallacies of psychiatric "science" which is anything but.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Though this book might be of paramount importance for those who desire to find an antithetical position to the "Doctors for the pathologizing of human behavior," I think it a terrible mistake to read this book with the assumption that understanding Szasz will be the result. Written early in his career, this book, like Beethoven's early symphonies, deserves not the attention it receives for the titilating title. I believe the influence of Karl Kraus caused the about face demonstrated by "The Myth of Psychotherapy" from the position outlined in "The Ethics of Psychoanalysis," both books he published later. For those that desire to find a summation of Szasz in one volume, I would recommend "Insanity."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and important 2 Mar 2008
Format:Paperback
Szasz has a strong and anti-establishment view of psychiatry, and uses a range of arguments from sociology, semiotics, communication analysis, ethics and game theory to support his position. At times dense and confusing - perhaps even too quick at points to make some half-baked assertions and rhetorical sleights of hand - Szasz's book overall nevertheless makes a serious and significant case that deserves thought and deliberation even if in the end you disagree.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Thomas Szasz, vociferous, unwavering opponent of coercive psychiatry and the many it has and continues to ruin, unleashed a lot of irrational forces amongst the psychiatric establishment when he wrote this exceptional critique of the concept of mental illness.

It still remains a concept from my perspective, as many epistemological studies into how researchers came to the conclusion that mental illnesses are positive truths, genetic in aetiology, and diseases of the brain, seem to me to show.

Perhaps the most contemptible thing amongst all eras of psychiatry, apart from its barbarous therapeutics, is its dogmatism and its harnessing of language to the purpose of mass deception, deceptions that may strain credulity for the independent thinker, but are unthinkingly internalised by the herd who probably find it quite pleasing to think that the false dichotomy of sane and insane exists and they are the healthy ones. As Szasz cogently propounds in this book, a pathology is something you discover, something corporeal, and not something relative to someone else's framework of perception and ideological and moral beliefs.

Yet researchers and neo-Kraepelinians alike continue to persist obdurately in their folly. They assume as axiomatic their beliefs, looking at things through their own hermeneutic frameworks that predisposes the research to the desired result, yet the evidence derived from things such as the twin-studies seems to me to be preponderantly weighted towards an environmental causation rather than a genetic one for the putative illness of people like myself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars dont like the concept but very interesting
The idea that mental health results from our own doing is valid to some extent but I don't like how this book could impact on some one who suffers with mental health
Published 8 months ago by Clinton
2.0 out of 5 stars Brave and honest
Being a practising physician, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Sasz. Really I find it difficult to see where psychiatry can go from here. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Bienfe Chiva
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good perspective on mental illness.
I first read this book over 20 years ago for a course module. Since then misplaced the book and wanted to re-read so bought it again. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Szasz will be sadly missed
There is no such thing, he's absolutely right! All those charlatan quacks could never face up to their lies and deceptions
Published 14 months ago by Herbie
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Book received in good conditions, as described and after transacton. No necessery any comunication. I recommend this book to any who wants a new perspectiv on theme
Published 16 months ago by António Filipe
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book poor quality
The book itself doesn't need a review but sadly the quality of paper is poor and the printing has errors which make a few pages hard to read as the ink seemed as though it was... Read more
Published 16 months ago by jules
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting approach worth reading
This book was in a very good condition, it arrived on time, generally worth buying if anyone is interested in a topic. A very good source.
Published 19 months ago by ewelina
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