This mammoth book (xxvii+1762 pages, and a CD-ROM version of
DSM-IV) summarizes the current state of psychiatry. It has five sections:
The fifty different chapters are written by some of the best
known names in psychiatry and clinical psychology, including Steven Hyman,
Nancy Andreasen, Aaron Beck, Irvin Yalom, Robert Simon, and Melvin Sabshin, to
name just a few.
has a broad range, and while some of it is somewhat technical, much of the book
should be accessible to educated lay readers.
For example, the chapter on mood disorders, by Steven Dubovsky and
Randall Buzan, is 86 pages long, including 18 pages of references. It discusses the prevalence of mood
disorders in the US and other countries, diagnostic critiera, connections with
other psychiatric conditions, as well creativity, different theories about the
causes, different treatments, and mood disorders in children and
adolescents. It acknowledges some
controversies although, unsurprisingly, it does not give much space to strongly
By way of
contrast, the chapter on personality disorders, by Katherine Phillips and John
Gunderson, is much shorter, at 28 pages, with five of those being the
references. Theres some discussion of
the history of the category, classification issues, etiology and pathogenesis,
subtypes, and a short paragraph on conclusions.
Im not a
researcher in psychiatry, and Im not in a strong position to judge the
accuracy of the claims in the book, but it seems like a highly professional
work. It is certainly a wonderfully
thorough source of information, to which health care professionals and
patients, as well as academics may turn when they need the mainstream view of
just about any issue in psychiatry.
I am in a
position to judge the chapter on ethics and psychiatry, by Allen Dyer. This is a mere 16 pages, and devotes a
strangely large portion of its space on the history of ethics, even quoting the
original Hippocratic oath at length, and it includes almost two pages to
diagrams of deontological and teleological ethical methods, which most readers
are bound to find utterly confusing.
But then, psychiatric ethics is my area of expertise, so its hardly
surprising that I am critical of this chapter.
Textbooks are not aimed at experts, and are not necessarily best judged
this is an excellent resource, and will be useful to a wide variety of readers.
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.