The Book of Woe

The Book of Woe : the DSM and the unmaking of psychiatry

3.6 (550 ratings by Goodreads)
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A riveting expose of the psychiatric profession's bible that reveals the deeply flawed process by which mental disorders are invented and uninvented - and how suffering has been turned into a commodity.

Since its first edition in 1952, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been regarded as the leading authority on mental-health diagnosis and research. But throughout the DSM's various iterations, debate has raged over which psychological problems constitute mental illness - homosexuality, for instance, was included until 1973, with asperger's gaining recognition in 1994, only to see its status challenged nearly 20 years later.
By examining the history of the DSM and the controversies over its latest revisions, psychotherapist Gary Greenberg challenges the status quo of modern psychiatric practice. he shows how difficult - even impossible - it is to rigorously differentiate mental illness from everyday suffering; and he sheds light on how the politics behind mental-health classification has caused diagnosis rates of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bipolar disorder to skyrocket.
Drawing on interviews with people on all sides of the debate, on historical examples, and on case studies from his own practice, Greenberg ultimately argues for a more humanistic approach to psychiatry. a combination of lively reportage and biting analysis, The Book of Woe will prove invaluable for expert and casual readers alike.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 416 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 35mm | 674g
  • Carlton North, Australia
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 1922247057
  • 9781922247056
  • 336,715

Review quote

`This is a landmark book about a landmark book ... Greenberg paints a picture so compelling and bleak that it could easily send the vulnerable reader into therapy ... takes the reader deep inside the secretive world of the panels and personalities that have spent years arguing about which disorders and symptoms they would keep and which they would discard in the new DSM.' -- Robert Epstein * Scientific American * `In The Book of Woe, Greenberg takes the lay reader through a history of the DSM, which is really a history of psychiatry ... [a] fascinating and well-researched account.' -- Suzanne Koven * The Boston Globe * `The process of assembling [DSM-5] has been anything but smooth, as The Book of Woe relates ... Greenberg argues - persuasively - that this fifth edition of the DSM arises not out of any new scientific understanding but from one of the periodic crises of psychiatry ... invaluable.' -- Laura Miller * * `Greenberg argues persuasively that the current DSM encourages psychiatrists to reach beyond their competence ... I'm impressed by Greenberg's reporting, his subtlety of thought, his dedication to honesty, and his literacy ... a very good book.' -- Benjamin Nugent * * `[Greenberg's] fascinating history of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM) ... show[s] just how muddled the boundaries of mental health truly are.' -- Chloe Schama * Smithsonian * `Gary Greenberg's The Book of Woe is about the DSM in the way that Moby-Dick is about a whale - big-time, but only in part. An engaging history of a profession's virtual bible, The Book of Woe is also a probing consideration of those psychic depths we cannot know and those social realities we pretend not to know, memorably rendered by a seasoned journalist who parses the complexities with a pickpocket's eye and a mensch's heart. If I wanted a therapist, and especially if I wanted to clear my mind of cant, I'd make an appointment with Dr. Greenberg as soon as he could fit me in.' -- Garret Keizer, author of Privacy and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want `In this gripping, devastating account of psychiatric hubris, Gary Greenberg shows that the process of revising the DSM remains as haphazard and chaotic as ever. His meticulous research into the many failures of DSM-5 will spark concern, even alarm, but in doing so will rule out complacency. The Book of Woe deserves a very wide readership.' -- Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness `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 `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 importance of its subject. Keenly researched and vividly reported, The Book of Woe is frank, impassioned, on fire for the truth - and best of all, vigorously, beautifully alive to its story's human stakes.' -- Michelle Orange, author of This Is Running for Your Life `This could be titled The Book of ... Whoa! An eye-popping look at the unnerving, often tawdry politics of psychiatry.' -- Gene Weingarten, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Fiddler in the Subway `[A] brilliant look at the making of DSM-5 ... entertaining, biting and essential ... Greenberg builds a splendid and horrifying read ... [he] shows us vividly that psychiatry's biggest problem may be a stubborn reluctance to admit its immaturity.' -- David Dobbs * * `Greenberg's documentation of the DSM-5 revision process is an essential read for practicing and in-training psychotherapists and psychiatrists and is an important contribution to the history of psychiatry.' * Library Journal * `[I]ndustrious and perfervid ... Mr. Greenberg [argues] that the [DSM] and its authors, the American Psychiatric Association, wield their power arbitrarily and often unwisely, encouraging the diagnosis of too many bogus mental illnesses in patients (binge eating disorder, for example) and too much medication to treat them ... Mr. Greenberg argues that psychiatry needs to become more humble, not more certain and aggressive ... Greenberg is a fresher, funnier writer. He paces the psychiatric stage as if he were part George Carlin, part Gregory House.' -- Dwight Garner * The New York Times * `A profound, and profoundly entertaining, riff on malady, power, and truth' -- Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction `A brilliant, ballsy excursion into the minefield of modern psychiatry' -- Daniel Smith, author of Monkey Mind 'Greenberg is an exceptional writer, and his book is deft and persuasive, and, despite its essentially unhappy topic, it made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion ... He makes an entirely cogent and, along the way, darkly entertaining case ... His book is an essential eye-opener for most people interested in the "mental disorders" and for all of us who practice the treatment of them.' -- MARTHA STOUT * The New Republic * 'The rewriting of the bible of psychiatry shakes the field to its foundations in this savvy, searching expose.' * Publishers Weekly * 'Bright, humorous, and seriously thoroughgoing, Greenberg takes all the DSMs for a spin as revealing as the emperor's new clothes.' * Kirkus Reviews * 'In this passionate, partisan outpouring, psychotherapist Gary Greenberg does a demolition job on psychiatry's quest for credibility and it reliance on questionable definitions and medication ... Verdict: eye-opening' * Herald Sun * 'Greenberg is a practicing psychotherapist who writes with the insight of a professional and the panache of a literary journalist ... [a] brilliant take-down of the psychiatric profession ... The Book of Woe offers a lucid and useful history of classification attempts in psychiatry.' -- Julia M. Klein * Chicago Tribune *
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About Gary Greenberg

Gary Greenberg is a practising psychotherapist and the author of Manufacturing Depression and The Noble Lie. He has written about the intersection of science, politics, and ethics for many publications, including Harper's, The New Yorker, Wired, The Nation, Rolling Stone, and Mother Jones, where he is a contributor. Dr Greenberg lives with his family in Connecticut.
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Rating details

550 ratings
3.6 out of 5 stars
5 20% (108)
4 39% (212)
3 29% (157)
2 10% (53)
1 4% (20)
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