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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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on 17 April 2012
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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on 10 July 2013
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. It's a good read offering a different perspective on mental illness from a professional.

If your interested in mental health and the issues involved (politicaly minded also) then this is the read for you. The perspective offered by Szasz is very informative.
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on 27 July 1999
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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on 12 July 2011
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.

Many seem to find inconceivable the role that cognitive biases play in the conclusions derived from these studies because, after all, the whole psychiatric establishment needs confirmation of its hypotheses to authenticate its existence. However, this isn't a conspiracy, no, just humans, limitless in their capacity for self-deception, being humans. They seem not to be conversant with the sophistical processes and mechanisms of their own minds. They might want to read about the Experimenter's bias.

Yet there is a systematic unwillingness amongst many psychiatrists and thoose who espouse the neo-Kraepelinian beliefs to treat the indivdual as if he didn't live in a vacuum or to account for the dialectic between man and his environment, the infinite variability of experience. To them, these are only of subsidiary importance in understanding that most stultifying of labels ascribed arbitrarily by one human to another; mental illness.

Szasz has argued throughout his long career that the conventional wisdom regarding the psychiatric establishment is also mythological in character, and that the view of the psychiatrist or the psychiatric nurse as merely dispatching a duty to the citizen is a hideous self-deception and rationalisation of what is, perhaps, another chapter in the metanarrative in human history of the systematic oppression of the powerless by the powerful.

Society ritually scapegoats men and women and is never held to account, and in the current system of majoritarian democracy with its attendant myths of tolerance and fairness, where mass opinions and values are extolled to the high heavens and anyone who criticises courts the scurrilites of the complacent mob, the majority-minority dichotomy is as relevant as ever, and that psychiatry performs a function for the state and society predominantly, is something Szasz has perennially argued to be the case.

As, to my mind, he has successfully argued throughout his career, intolerance of differences (a phrase that is something of an anathema in our disingenuous age of purported pluralism and tolerant values...what conceited tripe!) is a regular feature of human societies, and psychiatry and its coercive apparatus is baneful in influence to the individual. As a person who has had direct sensory experience of these things I can testify to the way in which it disarms the individual under the pretence of noble intentions, which in my opinion, only the most terminally naive would believe in because, once the stigma is attached to you, it becomes a weapon in the hands of others who use it as a rationalisation for detainment and coercive treatment and also in arguments in general, conveniently attributing your every action and word to your supposed disease with impunity, and often shifting blame from themselves, as I learnt much to my chagrin whilst on a ward.

One of the obvious reasons why people find the concept of mental illness so seductive is because most people will tend to believe in what the common herd believes, as much as anything as to consolidate their position in society, and to not do or believe in anything that may pose a threat to their social, economic and sexual security and prospects, in my opinion, after all, there are many punitive and marginalising mechanisms in place for society's secular heretics.

Their laughs and general smug, self-congratulatory dismissiveness is little no more than an expression of herd behaviour, of an ovine mentality that strikes me as little more than an encumbrance to progress. Yet the seeming overconfidence of those who who are convinced, for example, in the brain disease hypothesis, is ridiculous. Always the same apodictic mannerisms characterise their discourse, always feigned laughter, always an excess of adverbs such as 'truly' and 'definitely' and 'incontestably', and never anything to moderate such arrogance and absurd peremptoriness. Their lust for authority is 'truly' monumental.
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on 25 November 2011
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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on 21 April 2016
Very, very well written by professional 'insiders'. Their passion and moral outrage on behalf of patients who have been duped and damaged by "psycho-business" shines through. Looking forward to the next book!
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At one time or another many people become unhappy or angry to the point where they don't feel that they can cope with life because of their spouse or their mortgage or whatever. As Thomas Szasz argues in 'The Myth of Mental Illness', this is unfortunate, but it doesn't constitute a biological illness. As such, if we pretend it is an illness we do a disservice to all concerned. The 'patient' gets the impression that he can't do anything to fix his own problems. The doctor has to deal with people whom he cannot help because they have a life problem, not a biological problem. Worse still, the idea of mental illness conflates medicine with law and morality and as Szasz argues this is a dangerous tendency. If you want to understand more about human behaviour and the world in general, read this book.
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on 12 March 2009
To sum up mental illness is impossible in this space but to add light to the correct or successful line of thinking is to understand 'exactly' what Szasz said back then (1980's), and 'that is' that it is NOT an ILLNESS but a CONDITION. If your football team perform bad and are in a state of frustration and confusion are they ill? No, they are having problems coping with either 'stress, the weather, new team members, the others teams strategy, personal pressure, etc'. They are NOT prescribed pills or tablets but are given guidance and training to help cope. This is the core of the reasoning. There are institutions and people of 'power' (without name) who are in positions which come with responsibility of the 'well-being' of humanity but are not humanitarian's and are often delusional and without sympathy or 'soul'. They know just as the average citizen feels (whether conscious or not) that the 'stresses and pressures' of the society these people 'over-see' are often inhuman and un-natural, therefore reactions and symptoms will inevitably occur which can easily be thought of (without observation and study) as un-natural and sometimes in-human behaviour (remembering some cultures call it possession).
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on 6 May 2013
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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