Synopses & Reviews
Do defective genes give rise to defective thought? The revolution in molecular genetics has indeed given rise to the increasing optimism that advancements in biotechnology will soon uncover the causes of all disturbances of mind and behavior. In this book, leading psychiatrist Julian Leff counters this reductionist claim and emphasizes what is known about the psychological, social, and cultural factors underlying mental illness. In doing so, he addresses many serious and urgent questions. What exactly is the difference between sadness and depression? What are the difficulties in categorizing psychiatric conditions? How are psychiatric diagnoses made in the first place? Are international attempts to standardize diagnosis flawed? Can doctors ever hope to disentangle cause and effect in the treatment of mental illness? What is the influence of emotional relationships on psychiatric conditions? How do public attitudes to mental illness affect choices of treatment? And, finally, what does all this tell us about the cultural causes of mental illness?
Throughout the book Leff also takes stock of the origins and effects of many medications used to treat mental illnesses, from antidepressants such as Prozac to Thorazine, a drug used to treat patients with delusions and hallucinations. Showing how broad social and community forces play into human development, he highlights the importance of life events and external forces in the origin and treatment of depression and schizophrenia. Leff acknowledges the biological basis of mental activity, but underscores the vital role of the social environment.
The Unbalanced Mind addresses such questions as:
- Why was there a lower rate of diagnosis of schizophrenia in Great Britain than in the United States?
- Why do people with schizophrenia in developing countries have a better rate of recovery?
- How did the USSR use the diagnosis of schizophrenia for political ends?
Full of engaging examples, The Unbalanced Mind
provides a clear picture of how mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated and what is at the root of the cause. As Leff explains, "My vision for the future of psychiatry is one that depends not on technical advances in making images of the brain or replacing bad genes with good ones, but on increasing our understanding of relationships between people."
"Convincingly argues that genetics alone cannot completely explain the cause of psychiatric disorders." Publishers Weekly
"Leff's humane, hard-nosed social science attests that 'our minds can be unbalanced by disturbances in our social environment, and the balance can be restored by actively reshaping our relationships with the people [who] matter to us'." Library Journal
"Argues that what is known about social and interpersonal factors in mental illnesses has greater applicability in patient care than do basic biological research findings." American Scientist
"An excellent study...enlightening, the writing crisp and clear, the comparison of what is labeled as 'abnormal' to what many 'normal' people do refreshing and on the mark." Choice
About the Author
Julian Leff is professor of social and cultural psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. He has published more than two hundred articles and contributes regularly to television and radio broadcasts. He is the author and coauthor of ten books, one of which won the Starkey Prize of the Royal Society of Medicine, UK. In 1999 he became the first winner of the Burgholzli Prize for outstanding contributions to psychiatry.