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Publisher's Summary

The inspiration for the PBS series Mysterious of Mental Illness, Shrinks brilliantly tells the "astonishing" story of psychiatry's origins, demise, and redemption (Siddhartha Mukherjee).

Psychiatry has come a long way since the days of chaining "lunatics" in cold cells and parading them as freakish marvels before a gaping public.

But, as Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, the former president of the American Psychiatric Association, reveals in his extraordinary and eye-opening audiobook, the path to legitimacy for "the black sheep of medicine" has been anything but smooth.

In Shrinks, Dr. Lieberman traces the field from its birth as a mystic pseudo-science through its adolescence as a cult of "shrinks" to its late blooming maturity - beginning after World War II - as a science-driven profession that saves lives. With fascinating case studies and portraits of the luminaries of the field - from Sigmund Freud to Eric Kandel - Shrinks is a gripping and illuminating listen, and an urgent call-to-arms to dispel the stigma of mental illnesses by treating them as diseases rather than unfortunate states of mind.

©2015 Jeffrey A. Lieberman (P)2015 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

“A lucid popular history...At once skeptical and triumphalist. It shows just how far psychiatry has come.” (Julia M. Klein, Boston Globe)

"Jeffrey Lieberman has produced a masterful behind-the-scenes examination of psychiatry - and, by extension, the human condition. A wise and gripping book that tackles one of the most important questions of our time: what is mental illness?" (Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon)
"An astonishing book: honest, sober, exciting, and humane. Lieberman writes with the authority of an expert, but with the humility of a doctor who has learned to treat the most profound and mysterious forms of mental illnesses... This book brings you to the very forefront of one of the most amazing medical journeys of our time." (Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Today's psychiatrist aren't like your father's

Most of us today have a warped view of what psychiatry does based on its early history and the way it has been portrayed by popular media during earlier time periods. Psychoanalysis (think Freud) was pseudoscience. It thought that diseases of the mind and brain were caused by repressed memories and such, and that it had no empirical data to support it. The author really doesn't dance around the problems inherent within Psychoanalysis. Each psychoanalyst needed to be psychoanalyzed before becoming a psychoanalyst a perfect way to create a pseudoscience.

Psychoanalysts were arguing that all mental problems were behavioral problems and everybody suffered from some sort of mental problem. They had lost touch with reality. The media was right to mock the profession. Things started to change in the 1970s when Washington University in St. Louis, MO started emphasizing the role that data should play in diagnosis instead of tradition and intuition. They even started developing CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) as an antidote to the meaninglessness of blaming the patient for his neurosis. With data it was shown to work.

The first step in developing science is to first define categories. In this case, the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) III started insisting on scientific categories instead of the pseudo classifications that the psychiatrists (mostly psychoanalyst) had been using previously. The tenor of the times had tarnished the image of the psychiatrists and something needed to be done to put the profession back on a scientific basis.

The next step comes about through the realization that the mind and the brain both effect mental health. The first major step (early 1900s) was introducing malaria into patients who had severe mental problems due to advance syphilis. The ensuing fever cured the patients. Unfortunately, lobotomies started being performed, and had no data to support their efficacy. Ultimately, a whole slew of drugs are discovered which led to control of some mental related diseases.

The author shows how today the profession really does add value. Many people's perceptions about the profession were warped by what they saw in popular media while growing up, but the world has changed and so has the profession of psychiatry. For those who want to remain in the dark and only offer criticism they should skip this fine book, for all others who want to enter the 21st century and unlearn their misconceptions I would highly recommend this well written book.





10 people found this helpful

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Misleading

What would have made Shrinks better?

An objective history would have been helpful. As a psychiatrist I dismissed negative reviews as the usual anti-psychiatry rants . However upon reading the book I was disappointed in it being a polemic at times bordering on a rant. The straw man is Wilhelm Reich , a well known if notorious psychiatrist never studied in psychiatric training . Anyone deemed unscientific is then thrown into the Reich basket. In the modern case studies he understates the medications risks and vastly overstates outcomes especially with schizophrenia.Although I do agree its the best we have and I applaud his strong advocacy on behalf of mental health treatment . So the book is filled with truths, half truths,falsehoods,understatement,and exaggerations. This makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Its doubly disappointing that Dr. Lieberman is a past president of the APA. This reflect ongoing tensions within the field

What could Jeffrey A. Lieberman and Ogi Ogas have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

the performance is very good. The book itself not objective.

Any additional comments?

False reassurance is not reassuring

16 people found this helpful

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Antiseptic Analysis of a Couch

Yes. I realize my headline for this review paints this book as terribly boring. Though I don't find it nearly as boring as a morose overview of a furniture piece typically associated with the practice of psychiatry, I think it's only fair considering the publisher's description appears aimed at convincing potential readers that it's an inside, layman's look at the practice of psychiatry. At least, that's how I read it, which was why I bought the book.

Instead, I found "Shrinks..." to be overly didactic and mundane in providing the layman a history of psychiatry, an argument for its recognition and development as a field of medicine, and a discussion of the different approaches and diagnostic systems.

This is your book if you or someone in your circle of family/friends is considering psychiatry as a profession or wants to gain a better understanding of either the history of the field or the more technical aspects of the practice.

On the other hand, if you're averse to lectures, you'd probably do best to leave the story Untold.

4 people found this helpful

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Best ever book on medicine

Similar in goal and scope to "The Emperor of All Maladies," but superior in large part because of the unique position the mind has within the physical brain, and thus the incredible fascination of psychiatric illness.

1 person found this helpful

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Great history of a medical discipline

Dr Lieberman's book is a fascinating compendium of stories about a most misunderstood and much maligned medical discipline. Medical and Mental health professionals will enjoy the history and personal stories about the leaders in the field.

The performance seemed to have a lot of revisions. The reader's voice changed frequently and it was quite noticeable.

1 person found this helpful

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A heady and heavy retrospection

Too dismissive of psychoanalytic roots. Tilted to affluent and well educated patient histories and examples. Due credit given to rather obsessively driven diagnosticians (DSM 5 diagnosis manual). A discredit to psychoanalytic pioneers trained make dynamic formulations, be non-judgmental, help bare suffering and offer acceptance when rejection expected patients.
Neglectful as to side effects of de-institutionalization and legal liberalization that lets mentally ill suffer with their rights to spurn any treatment. Plus, book poorly addresses insurance and length of hospital stays creating revolving door, acute (in today and out tomorrow) hospital visits---perhaps facilitated by pill focused treatment plans.

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Compelling and exquisite

Every psychiatry resident and Psych NP should listen to this book! It’s an insightful history into psychiatry and the DSM creation from someone who was involved in its creation.

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  • GB
  • 11-28-20

Great background history & detail

I really liked how the book discussed the evolution of the modern psychiatry in a very free flowing open manner. I took at least 25 descriptive bookmarks.

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Easy to read + interesting information

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was the perfect combination of simple narration with real life stories and important information. A quick overview of the history of psychotherapy - that was very interesting.

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amazing history of psychiatry

I recommend this to any, really in depth enough to gain a grasp but not so much as to bore. as someone who delay with a whole hosts of mental illnesses in my family I was hooked the whole time .