SCHIZOPHRENIA: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry by

SCHIZOPHRENIA: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry

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Fifteen years and a dozen books after The Myth of Mental Illness, the William Buckley of social relations continues his elegant and passionate assault on psychiatry, this time zeroing in on the most vulnerable syndrome in the medical library. ""Schizophrenia is not a disease,"" Szasz insists, only a name that fake doctors (psychiatrists) give to misbehavers who annoy their families and misfits who can't ""endure life with decency and dignity."" This anti-Freudian no lesion--no illness formula is familiar, but genetic approaches to the subject--and all the recent, impressive statistics--are also rejected. Even R. D. Laing and the ""anti-psychiatrists"" (who've stolen much of Szasz' thunder) draw ridicule--for their idealization of insanity and for attempts to treat, however benignly, ""so-called"" schizophrenics. The undeniable problems with the schizophrenia diagnosis--vagueness, lack of etiology, institutional abuse--receive repeated emphasis, along with nightmarish reports of (primarily Soviet) political persecution masquerading as psychiatry. Disturbing stuff, but Szasz drowns the valid controversies in hyperbole (""the greatest scientific scandal of our scientific age"") and tests our patience with labored analogies: therapy as slavery or arranged marriage, schizophrenia as the psychiatric faith's Eucharist. As always, the Szasz attack is relentlessly abstract (no case histories or current asylum data) and short on compassion, yet imbued with an odd eloquence that perhaps only tunnel-vision can achieve.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1976
Publisher: Basic Books