The Book of Woe

The Book of Woe

The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry

Book - 2013
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For more than two years, author and psychotherapist Gary Greenberg has embedded himself in the war that broke out over the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - the DSM - the American Psychiatric Association's compendium of mental illnesses and what Greenberg calls 'the book of woe.'

Since its debut in 1952, the DSM has been frequently revised, and with each revision, the 'official' view on which psychological problems constitute mental illness. Homesexuality, for instance, was a mental illness until 1973, and Asperger's gained recognition in 1994 only to its status challenged nearly twenty years later. Each revision has created controversy, but the DSM-5, the newest iteration, has shaken psychiatry to its foundations. The APA has taken fire from patients, mental health practitioners, and once loyal former leaders for extending the reach of psychiatry into daily life by encouraging doctors to diagnose more illnesses and prescribe more therapies - often medications whose efficacy is unknown and whose side effects are severe. Critics, including Greenberg, argue that the APA should not have the naming rights to psychological pain or rights to the hundreds of millions of dollars the organization earns, especially when even the DSM's staunchest defenders acknowledge that the disorders listed in the book are not real illnesses.

Greenberg's account of the history behind the DSM, which has grown from pamphlet-sized to encyclopedic since it was first published, with his behind-the-scenes reporting of the deeply flawed process by which the DSM-5 has been revised, is both riveting and disturbing. Anyone who has received a diagnosis of mental disorder, filed a claim with an insurer, or just wondered whether daily troubles qualify as true illness should know how the DSM turns suffering into a commodity, and the APA into its own biggest beneficiary. Invaluable and informative, The Book of Woe is bound to spark intense debate among expert and casual readers alike.

Praise for The Book of Woe

'Gary Greenberg has become the Dante of our psychiatric age, and the DSM-5 is his Inferno. He guides us through the not-so-divine comedy that results when psychiatrists attempt to reduce our hopelessly complex inner worlds to an arbitrary taxonomy that provides a disorder for everybody. Greenberg leads us into depths that Dante never dreamed of. The Book of Woe is a mad chronicle of so-called madness.' Errol Morris, Academy Award-winning director, and author of A Wilderness of Error

'The Book of Woe is a brilliant, ballsy excursion into the minefield of modern psychiatry. Greenberg has wit, energy, and a wonderfully skeptical mind. If you want to understand how we think of mental suffering today - and why, and to what effect - read this book.' Daniel Smith, author of Monkey Mind

'This could be titled The Book . . . Whoa! An eye-popping look at the unnerving, often tawdry politics of psychiatry.' Gene Weingarten, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Fiddler in the Subway

'Gary Greenberg is a thoughtful comedian and a cranky philosopher and a humble pest of a reporter, equal parts Woody Allen, Kierkegaard, and Columbo. The Book of Woe is a profound, and profoundly entertaining, riff on malady, power, and truth. This book is for those of us (i.e., all of us) who've ever wondered what it means, and what's at stake, when we try to distinguish the suffering of the ill from the suffering of the human.' Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction

'Bringing the full force of his wit, warmth, and tenacity to this accessible inside account of the latest revision of psychiatry's diagnostic bible, Gary Greenberg has written a book to rival the importa

Publisher: New York : Blue Rider Press, c2013
ISBN: 9780399158537
Branch Call Number: 616.89 GRE
Characteristics: 403 p. ; 24 cm


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Sep 06, 2016

This wasn't nearly as enthralling as I'd hoped. While the DSM-5 really is something that needs to be discussed, I found this book boring. I agree with the author on many points, but I guess it was the style that turned me off. He's intelligent but wildly out of touch with the reality of mental illness and more in touch with his own opinions.

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