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Customer Review

on 8 February 1998
I wish I could believe that this book was a hilarious parody, a deliberate reductio ad absurdum of the worst anti-psychiatric cliches of the '60s. Unfortunately, Szasz has built a career on denying that mental illness exists, so I must assume that he actually believes this. He expounds a largely fictitious "history" of psychiatry (he seriously seems to believe that Freud and the psycho-analysts invented mental illness, ignoring the fact that all known cultures, back to the Ancient Greeks, have had a concept of mental illness) in order to claim that mental illness is just a myth invented by wicked psychiatrists.
The more astute may wonder what Szasz makes of those inconvenient people who report hallucinations, delusions, agonizing depression, etc., etc. Being a deeply compassionate and humanitarian person, Szasz simply accuses them of malingering (yes, he actually says this). He appears to think that people with schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder, and so forth should just "pull themselves together". I found myself wondering if Szasz had ever actually met, let alone listened to, anyone with a mental illness.
Yes, psychiatry, like other forms of medicine, often needs criticism, and has a history of abuse of power behind it. But no-one believes that the solution to abuse of power in other forms of medicine is to declare that bodily illnesses are a "myth" invented by doctors, and that those who complain of broken legs are malingerers. I can only assume that Szasz's fame is due to a stunning amount of popular ignorance and misinformation about mental illness. Having experienced a mental illness (clinical depression) myself, I have to say that Szasz's book adds insult to injury.
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