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Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill
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Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,040 ratings  ·  90 reviews
In Mad in America, medical journalist Robert Whitaker reveals an astounding truth: Schizophrenics in the United States currently fare worse than patients in the world's poorest countries, and quite possibly worse than asylum patients did in the early nineteenth century. With a muckraker's passion, Whitaker argues that modern treatments for the severely mentally ill are jus...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 17th 2003 by Basic Books (first published January 3rd 2002)
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jo
Feb 26, 2011 jo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who has to deal with their or others' mental issues
this is a grim but i think mandatory history of psychiatry in america. it seems to me that, at this time, the people we can truly trust when it comes to exploring mental health culture are investigative journalists. this book is not kind to psychiatry, and i think this is exactly as it should be. whitaker documents painstakingly every assertion he makes and shows us a discipline that was born wrongly and retains to this day the misguidedness of its roots. i don't know about other countries (ther...more
Snehal Bhagat
A historical account of how the mentally ill have been treated, with an emphasis on the treatment in America.

Rarely does a title describe a book so well. The treatment of the mentally ill has been marred by bad science throughout; historically plagued with abominable practices such as whipping and bloodletting, even in its golden hour in the 20th century, the mentally ill were "(being) described as a degenerate strain of humanity, "social wastage"..."defective germ plasm".." and in keeping with...more
Jeff Randall
Such an important book, that looks at how we have treated mentally ill folks through the centuries. An inside look at psychiatry's dirty secrets, and an exploration of where science, corporate interests (drug companies, doctors) and the mentally ill individuals intersect and interact. Whitaker has been demonized as a heretic for daring to question the efficacy of studies supporting the drugs we are increasingly ingesting and wonders why if they are effective relapse rates increase for those medi...more
Kyrie
This book was referenced by the author of "Shutter Island". It tells the history of mental treatment in America from the Quakers who tried to cure madness with gentle treatment to the drugs prescribed today. Some of it is frightening and terrible. Towards the end the author focused solely on schizophrenia and the drugs used to treat it. I would have found it more interesting if other psychiatric issues were addressed, but perhaps they're too many to mention. The author feels there is a vast cons...more
Kurt
This work contains plenty of interesting facts about the advancements in the treatment of schizophrenics (in particular) in the U.S. health care system. That being said, the eventual condition of an all-encompassing "system" in the world of treatment was for these unfortunate souls a nasty development. It was enlightening to read that the treatment methods employed in the 19th century were much more closely related to those we now consider most humane and effective. (The "One Flew Over a Cuckoo'...more
Sammie
Oct 02, 2013 Sammie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: psychology majors
Shelves: psychology
I am not sure how to rate this book honestly. The author did very well at putting this book together. However, I am not sure if I should "like" the book because I did not enjoy reading about the horrific treatment of people with mental illness. But I am grateful to have this knowledge about how these people were treated. It upsets me about what these people were put through, but on the other hand I am contemplating on whether or not I believe it was necessary in order to get to where we are toda...more
Chuck
In the Preface to "Mad in America," the author points to a startling fact, that over the past twenty-five years, outcomes for people suffering with schizophrenia in the U.S. have worsened. More than 2 million Americans suffer with schizophrenia. Many end up homeless, in prisons, or in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Schizophrenia is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $45 billion annually. These facts led Whitaker to ask, "If the medications work so well, then why do 'schizophrenics' fare so...more
Emily
Details the treatment of mental illness for the past several hundred years. Interesting & sometimes shocking to read about some of the approaches that have been tried. I think one of the author's purposes was to make the psychopharmacological treatments of the last few decades seem just as ineffective and brutal as those from the past. Somewhat interesting, but got really boring/academic when it got to lobotomy & drug treatments.
Kaye
This book gives an overview of some of the more horrific treatments for the mentally ill in America's history. It starts out with Benjamin Rush and his "gyrator", moving all the way to pharmaceuticals in present day. The eugenics movement of the 1930s is also covered (although not in depth). I have a fascination with the medical practices of the 18th and 19th centuries, and this work describes some shockers very well, indeed.
Emily
This was a difficult book to read. Like Anne Frank, I tend to believe that people are really good at heart. I assume they have the best intentions. After all, they were doing the best they could with what they knew, right? This book challenged that conviction. I kept envisioning people I love who struggle with various mental illnesses being subjected to the inhumane actions that too often passed for “treatment” in the past: near-starvation diets, electroshock therapy, drugged into a drooling veg...more
Liz Mourant
This history of the treatment of madness in times leading up to our own backwards treatment of "mental illness" is a true wonder of scholarship and impartiality. True, the author shows science to be largely a sham concocted by those who speak and act "in the name of a science run amok," but he doesn't outright dismiss their findings-- he shows us the fairly obvious flaws and barbarism inherent in many acts perpertraited on the so-called "mad" in the name of progress and for anyone interested in...more
Zach Wener-fligner
Great read. Whitaker digests a huge body of historical and scientific literature to produce this tragic, compelling story of schizophrenia in America.

The case Whitaker builds suggests that the majority of psychiatric patients in the United States have, for the past 50 years, been subjected to treatment that is detrimental to their recovery, as well as immoral and abusive. You'll question any faith you have in the moral infallibility of doctors. You'll be enraged at the corrupt, pseudo-scientific...more
Suzanne
What did I think? I think the abuse that the mentally ill have suffered over the years is repulsive.
I bookmarked and highlighted many passages to share with my circle. To ignore the hell in which the mentally ill dwell is to turn your back on humanity. I can think of no worse life than that of a person who sought help and basically got turned into a vegetable for my troubles. And that is the least of the worries of those placed on neuroleptics or the "wonder drugs" of today. I am totally not kn...more
Jessica C.
I'm completely over taken with the amount of information and its reliability. I studied psychology at Pitt, before I hit my breaking point. Do you know how many components can contribute to a nineteen year old girl whom gave up swimming, (she had a scholarship at her first college)the only thing that really mattered in her life. She used drugs and alcohol recklessly, she missed all of her classes because bulimia (when she wanted to photograph her puke as an art form), got more results than say,...more
Patricia Weenolsen
Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, by Robert Whitaker, Basic Books, 2010 Revised Edition. Originally published in 2002.

Mad in America is a searing indictment of our failure to relieve the suffering of the mentally ill and their families.
In the interest of fair disclosure, I am a psychologist and have spent much of my life studying mental illness, teaching about it, counseling, and writing, mainly in the areas of Death and Dying and oth...more
Jennifer W
Holy cow. Talk about cognitive dissonance. I've spent years of my life, since high school in fact, believing that mental illnesses are chemical imbalances in the brain and that we have drugs to treat them. Evidence presented herein disputes that and states that we may be worse off precisely because we are treating the mentally ill with medications. Some studies presented suggest that people on antipsychotics recover at the same rate as people in the "old days" when they were treated with ice wat...more
Mary
First of all, I will say I came into this with a misconception about what the book was about. That misconception was quickly thrown to the way side. While I understand the importance of such literature and history, I find it depressing to read. A lot of the treatments for the mentally ill I had heard of before through either psych classes or my own research, so there wasn't a shock value to this as there may have been for others. However, I found myself looking for something redeeming in all of...more
Sammichelle
No rating. A very lack-luster attempt on my part. If it takes me an hr to read 25 pages... its just not gonna happen for another page! My opinion would maybe be different if I was really interested in the field, or if it was for schooling. So, sorry book club! My first and only INTENTIONAL Dnf.
Colette
Jul 17, 2011 Colette rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
One of the most Important books I've read this year. At times disturbing, heartbreaking, maddening (pun intended), but I'm so glad I read it. Intricately researched, and written with loads of compassion and common sense.

My boiled-down takeaway: If you or a loved one have a psychotic break or are diagnoses with psychosis or "schizophrenia," DO NOT take conventional "antipsychotics"/neuroleptics (ie Thorazine, Haldol/halperidol, Prolixin) or the newer "atypical" "antipsychotics," no matter what t...more
Kate
Fabulously interesting evaluation of mental health treatment from the earliest days of chained crazies through moral therapy, fear treatments, water treatments, lobotomy, pills and more. This is a nice complement to the author's more recent Anatomy of an Epidemic, but while that book questions the current science as Science, this one questions the humane-ness as well as effectiveness of current and former treatments. The role of cost in health care and the someone-else's-problem switcheroo of ta...more
Katie
There is a lot of interesting information here, but it's repetitive, somewhat poorly organized, and perhaps even a bit skewed in certain areas. Though I am in agreement with the great majority of what the author says, I have the distinct feeling that something was left out somewhere along the way. Still, there are many jaw dropping facts worth knowing. They are, sadly, a part of American history - more recent history than most of us may realize.

This book is solely about Schizophrenia, which of...more
Joolie
Jun 03, 2008 Joolie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those with mental illness, mental illness in family or friends
Shelves: history, health
a solid account of modern history of mental illness "treatment" in the west (Europe/U.S). Touches on religious manifestations of mental illness treatment, (that mental illness is a product of demon posession or of a great sin) and mass criminalization and warehousing of the mentally ill, but mainly focuses on the medicalization of mental illness in the 19th century. From quaker/shaker community care treatments and medical establishment horrific water treatments to modern lobotomies, shock treatm...more
John Crane
This book is ten years old - but one that I SHOULD HAVE READ before I was allowed to teach psychology. The dopamine hypothesis for schizophrenia is a fraud. How many students have I taught this information? And the role of the drug industry in the US is just shocking. Every American who knows and loves someone with mental illness should read this book. A rather horrifying indictment of the land that used to greet its immigrants with this quote which I love and believe in: "Give me your tired, yo...more
h
Feb 08, 2008 h rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nicole
Shelves: 2008
i immensely enjoyed reading this book, as evidenced by the high number of dog-eared pages. i had started a poem using a quote from this book before i'd gotten very far into it. the author has a definite bias and makes no effort to hide it, but he supports his bias with the data he presents. i happen to be sympathetic to his perspective, but i can see how someone else might just be turned off by him. as with the best informative books, whitaker creates a compelling narrative and provides a pletho...more
Jeff Hrusko
Being a child of parent who went through "treatment" through the 70's and 80's, this book help put my experience in a larger context. For me, the most powerful part were hearing words and treatment discredited that we believe at the time as gospel.

Particularly painful is that my mother now suffers from severe involuntary movements as a result of being given Risperdal about five years ago, to learn that this drug is no less safe then the chemical lobotomy in a bottle they gave out in the 60s and...more
Julianne
A very well researched book covering the treatment (both medically/surgically as well as socially) over the decades. Absolutely captivating read for anyone who has been a part of this system or knows someone else who has been. The last few chapters get bogged down a bit in the pharmaceutical wars of drugs for profit but unfortunately this is necessary to understand why we continue to choose the medications we do to treat the ill. Well written but with a slight bias that is easy to decipher. You...more
Evelyn
Shocking account of what goes on during drug testing on drugs for the mentally ill. I felt that the author repeated information too often.
Greg Collver
I think that this is an important book that everyone involved in mental health should read. Even if his criticisms are extremely tailored to drive home his points, I think there is enough damning evidence to prove the need for investigation and reform of the MH industry. There should be a wall of separation between doctors and drug companies. Doctors everywhere should be ashamed to read of the human misery and the lives ruined by those in the MH profession who abused their powers in the name of...more
Gia
"In truth, the biological underpinnings of madness remain as mysterious as ever."
Anita
OMG. This is probably the best nonfiction book I've read this year. It's a mind-blowing, well-researched and very readable account of the treatment of mental illness in America. I've read lots on this topic, but I didn't know most of the information detailed here. I gush, but seriously-- from the first few horrifying chapters on how the insane were "treated" to the last few chapters on what is known now about medications and glossed over or omitted by the establishment, this is a book that even...more
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Robert Whitaker, a journalist, writes primarily about medicine and science. He is the author of four books: Mad in America, The Mapmaker's Wife, On the Laps of Gods and Anatomy of an Epidemic.

His newspaper and magazine articles on the mentally ill and the pharmaceutical industry have garnered several national awards, including a George Polk Award for medical writing and a National Association of S...more
More about Robert Whitaker...
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic

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