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Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness

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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  373 ratings  ·  62 reviews
What if you woke up with the alarming suspicion that you were being watched?

One day in 2003, a patient unlike any other that Dr. Joel Gold had seen before was admitted to his unit at Bellevue Hospital. This man claimed he was being filmed constantly and that his life was being broadcast around the world like The Truman Show—the 1998 film depicting a man who is unknowingly
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 8th 2014 by Free Press (first published September 4th 2012)
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Lark Benobi
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
What a disappointment. For some crazy reason I thought, given the title, that this was a book about "how culture shapes madness." I took the authors at their word and expected a reasoned discussion of how "madness" is defined from the culture surrounding a person and what is 'mad' in one culture is 'sane' in another. I've been thinking about this ever since I read "The Confessions of St. Patrick," in which Patrick reports the devil came and sat on his chest, something he apparently believed ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Delusions of psychotics seem as random as they strike us as ridiculous. However the author as a clinical psychiatrist started noting patterns that would recur in the delusions of psychotics. One that he would see over and over again is a scenario that mimicked the plot the movie the Truman Show. Patients often thought reality was staged in some way around them and that they were being scrutinized by an audience. When this happened with several patients the author decided to look into the nature ...more
Robert Miller
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author essentially argues that social stress is an important aspect of mental disorders and that the current trend towards using neuroscience to the point of exclusivity from the social world is misplaced. The Gold brothers (mostly Joel, it appears) set forth a number of delusions and explain how various social interactions impact or cause certain disorders. The authors sprinkle in some actual case studies to further reinforce or explain how one's interaction (or lack of) in our increasingly ...more
Bert
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable book, something that you don't need to be a mental health professional to read and appreciate. There is a nice succinct history of psychiatry, refreshing the reader's recollection of how we got where we are today. Then the authors do a comprehensive analysis of how delusional thinking morphs into psychosis, including a healthy and objective debate on whether everything can be explained by neurons and genetics, or whether society & environment play an important role as ...more
Jake
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I got a copy of this from a goodreads giveaway. The authors (brothers: a psychiatrist and a philosopher) begin by describing The Truman Show Delusion. This is where someone believes that they are the subject of a TV show and everyone else is in on it. They then outline the history of delusions, including possible evolutionary reasons that they exist. There are super-interesting case studies throughout. Wherever there are delusions, they are influenced by the culture of the deluded. The point of ...more
Nicole
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
A work intending to delve into the etiologies and history of delusions, this novel comes across more like a book for academics and would not be out of place for psychiatry residents or those studying psychology instead of as a work intended for the lay public. The authors spend a fair amount of time discussing the various types of delusions and the main premise behind the book revolves around the concept of "the Truman Show" delusion whereby a patient believes they are trapped within a reality ...more
Ann
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-medicine
An accessible, easy-to-read book about one of the most fascinating aspects of mental disorders - delusions.

The authors start by describing a couple of cases of what they name "The Truman Show Delusion" , a feeling expressed by psychotic patients that their lives are a show, scripted by a not necessarily benevolent mastermind, and peopled by actors/impostors.

They then take the reader on a quick and rather superficial history of the field of psychiatry, with all the usual names (Kraepelin,
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Anita
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating must-read for anyone interested in psychosis (and actually, a must-read for anyone interested in either belief or delusion). This book is an accessible mix of intellectual history, history of psychiatry, compassionate and sometimes-tragic anecdotes about patients, and philosophical explorations of the theories of cognition that were developed to try to explain a condition with substantial social ramifications that still remains a huge mystery. Interesting, too, is a well-organized ...more
Olga
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating. It covers a large body of theories concerning delusions and psychosis, suggesting that the emphasized neuro-biological approach to psychiatry largely ignores social factors that predispose individuals to delusional thinking. The Gold brothers suggest a very interesting theory to explain delusions - a faulty "Suspicion system": our brain's automatic, "knee-jerk" reaction to threats, and a ruptured connection between this and our "Reflective system": the more calculated ...more
Paula
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book. I am impressed with the good Doctors' knowledge, experience and humanity in discussing and explaining delusions and schizophrenia, a very difficult mental disorder to treat. I'm getting the book to read in print because it's worth reading again, in print, because it is so good.

The book also does a great service in enlightening ordinary, everyday people about the tragedy of mental illness and how pervasive it can be. Mental illness affects many, whether the patient is a
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Margaret Sankey
Dec 15, 2014 rated it liked it
A student asked me who mentally ill people claimed to be before Napoleon. Although this is an exaggeration, delusions have followed along with technology, celebrity and perceived power that forms a veritable Q score of madness, from Cold War fixations on the KGB bugging you, romantic attachments to Elvis or George Clooney, beliefs in messages via microwaves and digital billboards, and the wave of people who, having seen the Truman Show movie, believed that they, too, were starring in a televised ...more
Uwe Hook
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Incredible insight into how modern culture influences mental health and paranoid delusions. Must read for amateurs and academics alike. The writing style is very accessible and the case histories are fascinating. It also doesn't take itself too seriously. If you're a fan of Oliver Sacks you'll definitely find this book interesting as well, and in many ways more satisfying as it digs deeper and reveals brand new insights into how the outer world can influence psychosis.

Michelle
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Having encountered a friend with a similar story to those therein, this book provided a thought provoking frame for what may be happening in his/her reality. Plenty of patient cases and anecdotal evidence. I enjoyed listening to the author read on CD.
Rose
Oct 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was disappointed to find that it was not a study of delusions that are found only in various cultures.
Al Bità
Nov 05, 2016 rated it liked it
It is, perhaps, an inconvenient truth that we are fascinated and intrigued by stories (as opposed to personal experiences) of the maladies of others, particularly those of the mental kind. From this perspective, this book provides over a dozen case files scattered throughout, which are inherently interesting. They are presented as some examples of stories which might help elucidate the authors’ thesis that psychiatry should consider the possibility that culture shapes madness, and to include ...more
N. Jr.
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
In general, I liked this book, found it clearly written, easy to read for the lay person, and thought-provoking. Parts of it did irritate me though - particularly the views relating to socioeconomic status and sexual orientation, i.e. the persecution of those who are different lead them to be especially vulnerable to falling victim of delusional thinking. Such hypotheses were supported by statistical studies, which, in my experience, are very dubious. At times, the authors nearly went off topic ...more
Heidi
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I received this book as a part of the Goodreads Giveaway.

I was excited to read this book as it presents an fascinating premise, but it didn't quite stick the landing for me. While presenting an interesting look at how we have viewed and treated mental illness in the past, the book struggles with condensing competing theories and drawing firm conclusions into why these illnesses occur. This is highlighted by structural and pacing issues that either leave the reader searching for closure on a
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Tom Boates
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I have been curious about the mentality of conspiracy theorists, and thought this book would help me better understand how average people get there, but for me it never quite got there. There was a lot of discussion about clinical schizophrenia and psychosis, with plenty of case studies that showed some signs of how "normal" people share traits with psychiatric patients, but I found the discussion of every day people's behavior lacking. Maybe this was not the author's intent in the first place, ...more
Rayann Reid
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and I enjoyed that. It was about the various delusions experienced by people with mental illness, and how and why these delusions come about. It also had a lot of interesting case studies interspersed throughout the book.
Leni Krsová
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Honestly I expected a bit more but was over all satisfied with all the interesting information I got from this book. It's amazing how much can cultural phenomenons influence people's minds.
Valarie
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
There's a lot of interesting information in here, but it occasionally diverges into tangents.
Lauren
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one was worth taking my sweet time (3 months, to be exact) to take many notes, digest, and reflect on. I strongly believe that mental illness (or wellness) cannot be conceptualized outside of a social and cultural context, and Suspicious Minds delivers a strong argument in favour of this. I really appreciated the explicit challenge to aspirational psychiatry and reductionism, at the end of the book.
Sophia
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness is an ambitious and fascinating work on the nature of delusions, which are defined by DSM-5 (the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the standard reference for classifying mental disorders) as “fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in the light of conflicting evidence.” Brothers Joel and Ian Gold, a psychiatrist and a psychologist, respectively, introduce this topic through an interesting series of patients with the Truman ...more
Jeff
May 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Based on the subtitle of the book (and, if I recall, the blurbs on the dust jacket, though I always throw that away and thus don't have it handy), I was expecting a book more in line with my broad thought on the whole mental health thing (mainly, that the Mental Health Industries are largely just making shit up and unduly pathologizing every little deviation from "the norm") - something along the lines of "well, this is Madness in the West but not in Japan, so, it's not really Mad in some ...more
Borax
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book...took me a while to absorb it b/c it is pretty dry...but here are some things I will remember from it:

- We are stronger as a group...but that group mentality requires us to leave ourselves vulnerable...we must trust

- People take advantage of that vulnerability...this is mainly why we are suspicious

- We have a two-tiered approach to suspicion...our instant reaction (ex: an emotional response when you are asked to walk down an unknown city alley at night) and our
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GONZA
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The history of "madness" with particular attention to delusions. Everything starts from patients who develop the " Truman Show syndrome", id est those who believe that their life is not real, but part of a drama and then taken by the cameras 24 hours a 24, an interesting name for one of the infinite variations of paranoid psychosis. Through the stories, which sometimes seem surreal if they were not sad, the authors illustrate the various paths that lead to delusion and suspicion as the modern ...more
Craig
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'll start by saying this wasn't a book I instantly saw and coveted. Rather, it was a book suggested on the back of others I had combed through on Amazon. Regardless, I was quite looking forward to what I'd learn only to be left with a bad taste in my mouth for a reason I can't really put a finger on.

First of all, the positives - like with other similar works, the best part of this book was the borderline clinical analysis of case studies. However, much like Oliver Sachs (whom I also directed a
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Paul M.
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, netgalley
Pretty much everyone my age sat around with friends and, under the influence of The Truman Show and The Matrix, joked about what it would be like for our lives to be TV shows or how we could tell if we were in a massive simulation of some kind. Brain-tickling ideas, to be sure, but as this book shows, when they come into contact with a mind predisposed to madness, the results can be tragic for all involved. Joel and Ian Gold have written a two-pronged book, and both parts are fascinating. One, ...more
Sarah Novak
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I heard about the Truman Show delusion on a podcast, and I feared this book might be too narrow if that were it's sole focus. That fear was unfounded as "Suspicious Minds" uses that specific psychotic delusion as a starting and ending framework, but also discusses psychosis and theories of delusions more broadly. The authors present historical and modern theories of psychosis very carefully and weave in vignettes about patients to illustrate and add more humanity to the technical descriptions. ...more
Sophia
The best thing about this book was the collection of case histories. They were really interesting, as most delusions are.

While there was nothing really bad, I found the author to be only a mediocre "thinker". He provided a fairly good outline about what delusions are, and what theories have been made to try and explain them. He did a really good job in pointing out the flaws in these theories, but he did only an ok job piecing together clues from other fields to try and understand for himself
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I am Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. I evaluate and treat adults in my private practice in Manhattan. I practice both psychotherapy and medication management.
I went to school at Brown, then McGill Med before training in psychiatry at Bellevue/NYU.

I worked at Bellevue for almost 15 years where I held a few jobs including running the psychiatric
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