What is Mental Illness? Book Review at WIRED

i-c53927dea4972838a78b8dfec0f4a6d8-mcnally-what-is-mental-illness.jpg"Nearly 50 percent of Americans have been mentally ill at some point in their lives, and more than a quarter have suffered from mental illness in the past twelve months. Madness, it seems, is rampant in America."

This is how Richard J. McNally opens his new book, What Is Mental Illness? Earlier this year, David Dobbs of the Neuron Culture blog at Wired, recommended that I try to get my hands on an advance copy of this new book by McNally, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard. Well, I did indeed manage to get my hands on a galley copy of the book, thanks to the fine folks at Harvard University Press.

Today, you can see my review of the book (short version: its a great read, especially in advance of the publication of DSM-5, which will happen in May 2013) over at David's blog, Neuron Culture, at Wired Science.

When way most of us think about psychopathology, or abnormal psychology, we think of mental illness. We think of disability. We think of something perhaps maladaptive, at least in the everyday sense of psychosocial functioning, if not in the larger evolutionary sense. We tend to think that something inside the mind of the mentally disabled is fundamentally broken. This seems a fairly reasonable understanding of mental illness, but if you dive a bit deeper into the field of psychopathology, the waters begin to get a bit murkier.

Head on over to Neuron Culture to see the rest!

But don't just take my word for it - check out What Is Mental Illness? for yourself, and let me know what you think!

More like this

David Dobbs has a really excellent and thought-provoking article on the diagnosis (and perhaps over-diagnosis) of post-traumatic stress disorder over at Sciam. The essential point is that it's extremely hard to define a normal psychological response to traumatic events. Are nightmares normal? Is it…
Welcome to the mental illness mini-carnival! Mental illness, or psychopathology, is a field riddled with controversy and it can be sometimes confusing to wade through all the uncertainty and conflicting data and opinions. In an effort to help make sense of some of it, your faithful psychology and…
Author (and fellow ScienceBlogger) David Dobbs has an article on PTSD in the latest Scientific American, and has several related posts on his blog here at Sb. Dobbs' primary argument seems to be that PTSD is being widely overdiagnosed, in part because the condition itself is poorly defined, and in…
Below are materials supplementing my story "The Post-Traumatic Stress Trap," Scientific American, April 2009. (You can find the story here and my blog post introducing it here.) I'm starting with annotated sources, source materials, and a bit of multimedia. I hope to add a couple sidebars that didn…

Just a brief comment while on my lunch/pump break; I'll head over to WIRED this afternoon.

When way most of us think about psychopathology, or abnormal psychology, we think of mental illness. We think of disability.

This perception is why so many people don't seek help for issues like depression and anxiety disorders. I've talked openly about my postpartum depression, in the hopes that people would begin to see it as an illness, much like a bout of the flu, which can be treated and overcome. Sure, some issues are more chronic, but there's such a stigma attached because of the idea that it is a disability. I'm still waiting for the day that this changes, and I'm hoping that this book begins to address this issue.

I agree with you almost entirely. I think the field of psychopathology is going to continue to grapple with this issue. Is psychopathology like a disease, superimposed onto an otherwise healthy individual, like the flu (even if chronic)? Or is psychopathology fundamental to the organization of a person? In other words, is it disease or is it personality? I think some diagnoses will fall onto one side of this line, and others will fall onto the other side. That divide is already apparent in the organization of the DSM: Axis I are the "disease-like" diagnoses, and Axis II are the personality disorders.

I wonder if you are looking at thinking of mental illness as including the broader social ailments of a psychological nature, like distraction and obliviousness to torture, war, poverty, a lack of compassion (for which there could be a whole new long term). When does this, when do these categories get named and studied? When does it get looked at that mental health professionals have been missing in action when it comes to honoring and promoting developmental concepts in our relationships and in our parenting? Thanks...