ANXIETY by Donald W. Goodwin


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The idea here--a perfectly good one--is to let the public in on what the psychiatrists know. So Goodwin is popularizing the current edition of the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the big book that doctors use to distinguish among the host of disorders, phobias and all combinations thereof. But DSM-III, as the APA's manual is familiarly called, doesn't quite boil down to a proper popular book, so some history is in order, by way of introduction. And here Goodwin's simplifications and tendentiousness do him in. According to this version of the history of psychology, the key event was the discovery and introduction of Thorazine in the early 1950's. The drug, he contends, put psychoanalysis in its place once and for all. Anyway, Freud was a pseudo-scientist who didn't even believe in himself in the end, and the psychoanalysts who subsequently dominated psychology, especially in the US, have produced ""some of the silliest theories in history."" No wonder they Tailed to help their patients; Freud ""wasn't racking up too many successes himself. The leadership role has been seized, Goodwin reports, by the non-analytic psychiatrists working on the ""medical model,"" a hard-science approach that codifies mental problems into a limited number of clear categories. These are the fellows who wrote DSM-III. The first half of this book, then, is grotesquely simplistic. It is a hymn of faith to the ""agnostic"" school of psychology, and a Bronx cheer to anyone--Freud, Jung, Adler, and their ilk--who posits a human mind or soul behind the agony of anxiety. The second half is a sort of Merck Manual to everyday mental problems--all that cringing from cats and petty and gross obsessions and nameless dread. The definitions, clues, symptoms, and treatments are neatly laid out. Would that medical history and practice were so pat. But any decent practitioner knows that treating for anxiety is still a mysterious business that calls for offering comfort along with scientific savvy. Every good physician knows the same. And although a reevaluation of Freud's contributions is underway, it is absurd to sweep him or Jung aside. When the history is finally written, it won't be anything like this Classic Comics version.

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 1985
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press