Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry

Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry

by Tom Burns


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The first attempt in forty years to explain the full subject of psychiatry, from one of the world’s experts.

In what will be a tour de force in the field of psychiatry in all its complexity and depth, this important new volume explores the essential paradox of psychiatry—and offers a balanced understanding of its history and development in the medical world. Much is written about psychiatry, but very little that describes psychiatry itself. Why should there be such a need? For good or ill, psychiatry is a polemical battleground, criticized on the one hand as an instrument of social control, while on the other the latest developments in neuroscience are trumpeted as lasting solutions to mental illness.

Which of these strikingly contrasting positions should we believe? This is the first attempt in a generation to explain the whole subject of psychiatry. In this deeply thoughtful, descriptive, and sympathetic book, Tom Burns reviews the historical development of psychiatry, throughout alert to where psychiatry helps, and where it is imperfect. What is clear is that mental illnesses are intimately tied to what makes us human in the first place, and the drive to relieve the suffering they cause is even more human.

Psychiatry, for all its flaws, currently represents our best attempt to discharge this most human of impulses. It is not something we can just ignore. It is our necessary shadow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781605985701
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 06/15/2014
Pages: 332
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Tom Burns is Professor of Social Psychiatry at Oxford University. In addition to his clinical and teaching work, he has produced nearly two hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles. He lives in England.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: What is psychiatry and what is it for? xi

1 What to expect if you are referred to a psychiatrist 1

Part 1 How modern psychiatry developed

2 The origins of institutional psychiatry 33

3 The discovery of the unconscious 54

4 The rise and fall of psychoanalysis 69

5 The first medical model (between the wars) 98

6 The impact of war 116

7 Out of the asylum - the origins of community care 138

Part 2 The questions psychiatry asks about us and the questions we ask of it

8 Is mental illness real? Psychiatry's legitimacy 161

9 Is psychiatry trustworthy? Psychiatry's sins and abuses 184

10 Is bad behaviour any of our business? Psychiatry and the law 209

11 A diagnosis for everything and the medicalization of everyday life 224

12 New treatments but old dilemmas 251

13 The rise of neuroscience and the future of psychiatry 274

Epilogue 290

Glossary 295

Sources and further reading 306

Index 311

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