What is Madness? and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more

Trade in Yours
For a £2.93 Gift Card
Trade in
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

Start reading What is Madness? on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

What is Madness? [Hardcover]

Darian Leader
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Available from these sellers.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition £4.68  
Hardcover --  
Paperback £6.99  
Trade In this Item for up to £2.93
Trade in What is Madness? for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £2.93, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Book Description

6 Oct 2011

Madness, in our culture, is defined by visibility. From the popular press to TV soaps and films, the depiction of madness always borders on the extreme: violent outbursts, fits, hallucinations.

But what if madness is not exactly what we think it to be? What if it is the rule rather than the exception? And what if its defining features are not visible and dramatic but, on the contrary, highly discreet, shared by average citizens who will never come to psychiatric attention? What if, in other words, there is a difference between being mad and going mad?

Beginning and ending with the case of Harold Shipman - a mass-murderer so apparently 'normal' that some of his patients said they would still be treated by him even after his conviction - psychoanalyst Darian Leader explores the idea of discreet madness, and argues that it is only through revising our concept of what madness is that we will have the tools to help those who have gone mad to rebuild their lives.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (6 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144886
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description


In this important, lucid book, psychoanalyst asks us revise the concept of madness . . . Leader is as much a philosopher as a psychoanalyst and his ideas are engrossing and enlightening (Metro)

Wonderful (Bookseller)

The mad . . . have been segregated and often confined; for fear, perhaps, that they will contaminate the rest of us. But as Darain Leader brilliantly shows, things are never so simple (Hanif Kureshi Independent)

What is Madness? is a humane and timely book (New Statesman)

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

Leader, psychoanalyst and witty, probing writer, explores the long history of misunderstanding and mistreatment that shaped our views of mental distress. Consult him for a myth-busting diagnosis of the method in our madness (Independent)

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?

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
Search inside this book:

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, humane book 3 Oct 2011
By Porlock
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.
Was this review helpful to you?
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful exponent of psychoanalysis 18 May 2012
By A Ryder
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.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new way to think about madness 10 Oct 2011
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.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great entry point for me to psychoanalysis 16 July 2012
By paulrou
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.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars collectables 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
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating Read 27 Aug 2013
By spg2112
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.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another important book by Darian Leader 24 Aug 2013
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.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind opening book
Mind opening book.
Published 13 days ago by London East
3.0 out of 5 stars I get the gist but it would be nice to have some clarifying paragraphs...
Tough going. I get the gist but it would be nice to have some clarifying paragraphs to summarise. I know it is generally a discussion rather than text book but sometimes the jargon... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sean Higgins
1.0 out of 5 stars Psychoanalytical! Beware!
Even though there is no reference to psychoanalysis anywhere on the book's cover, Leader's viewpoint is completely psychoanalytical and as a result will be very unsatisfying for... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Alan R. Hartley
5.0 out of 5 stars It's madness Jim but not as we know it
As a counsellor and support worker mental health issues are something I know well, this book was rare as it explores not those who we would see in classic mental health setting... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. James M. Barton
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Brilliantly written. Not an easy subject to navigate but the author's explanations are clear and engaging. The final summary chapter rounds the book of really well. Read more
Published 3 months ago by gd
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you!
Thank you for your prompt delivery, I have read Leader's book called Bipolar and moved onto this book which is as equally well written and insightful!
Published 8 months ago by ESL
3.0 out of 5 stars A patchy picture
No mere layman such as myself should dare to question Darian Leader's erudition and I don't wish to do so. On the other hand, I felt that his 'What Is Madness? Read more
Published 13 months ago by David J. Boggis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Absolutely fascinating account of both the author's opinions and those of several others on what exactly constitutes madness, how, when and why it's being misdiagnosed and possible... Read more
Published 16 months ago by elephvant
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for similar items by category