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Still tilting at windmills: Commentary on … The myth of mental illness

  • Edward Shorter (a1)

Summary

Thomas Szasz's essay misses several key points about the undoubted changes that psychiatry has undergone since he wrote his original screed against the discipline in 1961. Szasz fails to recognise that the discipline today acknowledges a neurological basis for much psychiatric illness. Thus, his fulminations against psychiatry for treating ‘mental illness' is off-base. Szasz's original diatribe was heavily against psychoanalysis. Yet today Freud's doctrines can scarcely be said to play even a marginal role in psychiatry, and it is absurd to keep levelling the same old charges of 50 years ago. One has the feeling of looking at one of the last veterans of the Esperanto movement in confronting Szasz: lunacy at the time, bizarrely outdated today.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

The Psychiatrist (pb@rcpsych.ac.uk)

Footnotes

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See special article, pp. 179–182, this issue.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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1 Szasz, T. The myth of mental illness: 50 years later. Psychiatrist 2011; 35: 181184.
2 Shorter, E, Fink, M. Endocrine Psychiatry: Solving the Riddle of Melancholia. Oxford University Press, 2010.
3 Cobb, S, Cohen, M. Experimental production during rebreathing of sighing respiration and symptoms resembling those in anxiety attacks in patients with anxiety neurosis. Am Soc Clin Invest 1940; 19: 789.
4 Fricchione, GL, Cassem, NH, Hooberman, D, Hobson, D. Intravenous lorazepam in neuroleptic-induced catatonia. J Clin Invest 1983; 3: 338–42.
5 Shorter, E. Before Prozac: The Troubled History of Mood Disorders in Psychiatry. Oxford University Press, 2009.
6 Barone, P. Neurotransmission in Parkinson's disease: beyond dopamine. Eur J Neurology 2010; 17: 364–76.

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Still tilting at windmills: Commentary on … The myth of mental illness

  • Edward Shorter (a1)

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