Twenty years ago, we are told, Andreasen made a career-change from English professor to psychiatrist after a medical text (consulted in lieu of condescending pamphlets) helped her avert a serious post-partum complication. She is writing of her chosen field, in turn, to spare readers recourse to texts. The book's main thesis is that American psychiatry is now shedding its Freudian mantle and rapidly adopting the biological/neuropharmacological approach that is well established in Europe. Elaborating on this theme, Andreasen provides details, at the lay-person's level, of the neuroanatomical landmarks and functional systems of the brain and the current armamentarium of psychoactive drugs. In many ways, the book is a celebration of the new (third) psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, known to the trade as DSM III, a radical departure from the more analytically-oriented DSM II. The vocabulary is different: e.g., fewer uses of ""neurosis"" and ""psychosis""; replacement of ""manic-depressive psychosis"" by ""bipolar disorder."" Most importantly, the attempt is made to establish diagnostic criteria--necessary signs and symptoms of ""disorders"" (a more neutral term than ""diseases""). The case histories are true-to-life prototypes of the more common mental illnesses, including depression, mania, panic attacks and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and senile dementia. There are some earnest preachments, along with a preferential use of ""she"" that some will find irritating. But the clear explanations of the new diagnostic and research tests, and the presentation of typical treatment regimens and drugs, make the book a useful source of needed information.