A sweeping history of American psychiatry—from the mental hospital to the brain lab—that reveals the devastating treatments doctors have inflicted on their patients (especially women) in the name of science and questions our massive reliance on meds.
For more than two hundred years, disturbances of the mind—the sorts of things that were once called “madness”—have been studied and treated by the medical profession. Mental illness, some insist, is a disease like any other, whose origins can be identified and from which one can be cured. But is this true?
In this masterful account of America’s quest to understand and treat everything from anxiety to psychosis, one of the most provocative thinkers writing about psychiatry today sheds light on its tumultuous past. Desperate Remedies brings together a galaxy of mind doctors working in and out of institutional settings: psychologists and psychoanalysts, neuroscientists, and cognitive behavioral therapists, social reformers and advocates of mental hygiene, as well as patients and their families desperate for relief.
Andrew Scull begins with the birth of the asylum in the reformist zeal of the 1830s and carries us through to the latest drug trials and genetic studies. He carefully reconstructs the rise and fall of state-run mental hospitals to explain why so many of the mentally ill are now on the street and why so many of those whose bodies were experimented on were women. In his compelling closing chapters, he reveals how drug companies expanded their reach to treat a growing catalog of ills, leading to an epidemic of over-prescribing while deliberately concealing debilitating side effects.
Carefully researched and compulsively readable, Desperate Remedies is a definitive account of America’s long battle with mental illness that challenges us to rethink our deepest assumptions about who we are and how we think and feel.