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What is Madness? Paperback – 4 Oct 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (4 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141047356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141047355
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Engrossing and enlightening . . . Leader is as much a philosopher as a psychoanalyst (Metro)

Fascinating, humane and timely . . . Leader forces us to rethink our assumptions about 'mental health' with a formidable grasp of psychiatric history and a storyteller's flair for detail (Lisa Appignanesi New Statesman)

Witty, probing . . . A myth-busting diagnosis of the method in our madness (Independent)

Wonderful (Bookseller)

[Says] something that very much needs to be said (Irish Times)

About the Author

Darian Leader is a psychoanalyst practising in London and a member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research and of the College of Psychoanalysts - UK. He is the author of Why do women write more letters than they post?, Promises lovers make when it gets late, Freud's Footnotes and Stealing the Mona Lisa, and co-author, with David Corfield, of Why Do People Get Ill? He is Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Human and Life Sciences, Roehampton University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Ryder on 18 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was intrigued by positive reviews for a book which would seem to do itself no favours with its title question. 300 pages may be a long definition by dictionary standards, but explaining madness, like explaining consciousness or the size of the universe, in just one book seems like an impossible task.

Darian Leader guides his readers through his theories, the practice of which has clearly helped a number of his clients. The central theory posited - that psychosis is a combination of nature and nurture and can lay dormant for years or for a lifetime - sounds reasonable and is illustrated by several compelling examples. Leader's treatment of his clients relies on using their own attempts to find meaning, whether by a sustained delusion, use of language etc. which over time allows them to adjust and cope with their lives. His professional and human interest in those he helps is obvious, and he insists that treatment should not simply be aimed at stopping behaviour which might, rather than a symptom, be an attempt to relieve suffering.

He explains some of Freud's work in terms simple enough for the lay reader to grasp, but this lay reader, at least, remained slightly sceptical that Freud or even Lacan's size really does fit all. While the chapters on causes of psychosis and triggers of psychotic episodes seem thorough, I was left feeling that any number of not-unusual situations would produce madness, both the state of being and of going mad, in many children. This is not to say that I agree with the reviewer who felt that problems would be solved by better housing, more love etc. Psychosis is clearly quite distinct from melancholia or paranoia, or even neurosis.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Porlock on 3 Oct 2011
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. I've been in hospital for psychosis a few times, but I think it would be an interesting read for anyone. It doesn't just talk about and to people who have been floridly psychotic though, but explores how many people who are without symptoms have a 'psychotic structure'. This structure is seen as equal to, no less pathological than, neurotic structures. The emphasis is very much on how most people live without visible symptoms like voice hearing through a tie that keeps them together - a particular type of job, an identification, often a particular type of activity. It really focuses on how identifying what kept someone together is the way forward in mental health - rather than just dosing people up with medication. It's really beautifully written and incredibly humane and moving. The only criticism I have is that I would have liked to see a whole chapter on Leader's work with an individual patient (though there are loads of examples from people he has worked with throughout)! I really hope this book gets people thinking about madness as a creative solution, and the type of detailed, painstaking therapy Leader describes becomes more available. A brilliant read.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Adrienne T. on 10 Oct 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is full of stories and as gripping as a good novel. It offers really subtle and tolerant ways of thinking about madness. When a good friend of mine had a psychotic episode I was quite shocked by the way she was treated by her doctors. She is now heavily drugged and barely able to have a conversation. This book offers an alternative approach to treatment that preserves the humanity of the patient. It ought to be made compulsory reading for all trainee psychiatrists. And it's a great read for the interested bystander too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By paulrou on 16 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
I found this book very interesting on structures of madness (psychosis) and the difference in being mad, rather than going mad - having a structure of psychosis rather than actually having a psychotic episode or break. Strong thereotical background linked to clinical practice. Very interesting on insights that are relevant from old psychiatry, Freud, Lacan and useful incorporations of other schools insights. Case studies on Shipman and others very useful, including questionning of classical interpretations from Freud on Dora and Lacan on Aimee where needed. Worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SUSAN DAVIDSON-LAMB on 12 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a must for any student involved with mental health patients to gain insight into a very sad illness which not many people understand
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By spg2112 on 27 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Remember seeing this when it first came out in hardback, but waited for the paperback edition. It's certainly a stimulating read, providing a recent psychoanalytic approach to psychosis. At times it is really convincing as Leader works backwards in peoples' lives to trace the triggers for breakdown, revealing key events or interpretations that contributed. However, every so often I found the idea that some mishap in the anal stage of development caused psychosis years later a bit of a stab in the dark, very reliant on the analyst being correct.
Also interesting is a chapter on Dr Harold Shipman, again looking at patterns & events that might have explained his actions. A stimulating & creditable read on madness, at variance from the biomedical approach.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Field on 24 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback
I think Darian Leader is one of the most sane and humane analysts of human travail and the question of health. The premise of this book - that being mad (which many of us are) and going mad (which happens when the strategies for living are triggered into behavior that an individual and society finds troublesome)are a continuum and that it's possible with the right therapy for someone with psychosis to become 'reticent' again.
He often cites psychiatrists, practitioners and analysts of the 30s,40s and 50s who were working before the invention of strong medication and whose wisdom contemporary psychiatry seems to have lost.
The four rather than five stars are because I found the early chapters giving a psychoanalytic account of the development of psychosis slightly labored and heavy going but plan to revisit them in the light of the later ones.
I found the chapter on working with patients and clients illuminating and very applicable to poetry therapy, my own profession, where we explore world views but don't impose them. I had this book from the local library but have now ordered my own copy.
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