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Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness
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Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  155 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
A groundbreaking look at the connection between germs and mental illness, and how we can protect ourselves.

Is it possible to catch autism or OCD the same way we catch the flu? Can a child's contact with cat litter lead to schizophrenia? In her eye-opening new book, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Harriet Washington reveals that we can in fact "catch" men
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company (first published September 1st 2015)
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Nov 17, 2015 Jeanette rated it it was amazing
Picking up this book for a precise reason, which was to learn more about PANDAS. It's a condition that presents (rarely but increasing)within children. One day the 8 or 10 year old is completely normal, the next week showing progressive symptoms of hallucinatory or wildly emotive swings of fear, OCD, paranoia- generally insane scale conditions. Brain functions and perceptions definitively involved.

I've become a fan of the TV show on the Animal Planet channel called "Monsters Within US". And afte
Book Riot Community
I have a longstanding interest in the biological underpinnings of mental illness and so couldn’t resist checking out Harriet Washington’s Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We “Catch” Mental Illness from the library when I first learned of it earlier this month. As the title implies, the book delves into a large body of research pointing to an infectious cause behind many cases of so-called mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and OCD. With cool rationality ...more
Sara M. Abudahab
A well researched and thought provoking book.
Kat (Lost in Neverland)

This may sound outrageous at first. The suggestion that mental illness, currently an epidemic in modern society, can be caused by bacteria and pathogens like a common cold is nearly unheard of.
Getting schizophrenia from a cat? Developing anorexia after getting strep throat, or even depression from bacteria in your stomach?

While it seems strange, there are some truths to be found. For example, before the discovery of penicillin curing syphilis, a large quantity of people in mental institutions w
Jen Milia
Oct 13, 2015 Jen Milia added it
Shelves: firstreads
Combining a thorough review of medical and psychiatric research results with engaging case studies, Harriet Washington presents a compelling case for the biological basis of prevalent mental health disorders. Cases of autism, schizophrenia, Tourette's, and other mental health disorders have been found to be caused, at least partially, by biological means (bacteria and viruses). Washington illustrates how these biological agents, in combination with genetics, environmental factors, and general he ...more
Andile Mahlangeni-Byndon
Nov 13, 2015 Andile Mahlangeni-Byndon rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Washington does a great job using history, research, and other various cases to link infections with certain psychological illnesses. One thing I like about her style of writing is you can tell she does a lot of homework and research on the subjects she is talking about. She doesn't just bring new ideas to the table, but ideas that have existed that maybe haven't been fully explained in strong detail by a majority of people in the scientific community. The scientific community ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it
Shelves: science, health
3.5 stars
Over the last few months, I have been researching this and related topics. This is a good introductory synthesis about the human microbiome and how it plays into physical and mental health. A good place to start to learn more.
Sep 06, 2015 Kaite rated it it was amazing
I won a free copy from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Program and think that it interesting. I would recommend it to everyone.
Maria Ryan
Feb 22, 2016 Maria Ryan rated it it was ok
Disjointed Agenda

It would have been nice if Washington could have managed to stick to ethical investigative journalism and perhaps kept to the topic at hand, the theory of how various pathogens cause mental illness. It would have been a lofty goal at that because the topic itself is so vast. But Washington did a poor job of even trying. My one burning question is who is the true author of this book?

Deviating from the subject many times over, Washington goes off on multiple axes to grind such as
Mala Ashok
Mar 02, 2016 Mala Ashok rated it really liked it
This is a heavy book. I was attracted by the title and thought it might be easy reading. Well it was not. It turns out this book was part of the author's Master's thesis. It was, therefore, a scholarly work. I learned a lot from this book and in particular a lot about the mind body connection. Would I recommend this book? If you are fascinated by medicine and treatment methodology this book is for you. Otherwise? Hmm...
Dec 15, 2015 Theresa rated it really liked it
This is a great book on how some disorders may arise from infections. For example, strep throat in young children can result in OCD or anorexia. But her conclusions are not limited to medical disorders. She also has a chapter on cultural disorders. ( Hitler + Jews = Trump + Muslims? <- my parallel) I recommend reading "Brain on fire" by Susannah Calahan, a personal memoir related to this topic.
Monica Snyder
Jan 27, 2016 Monica Snyder rated it it was amazing
Seriously. Read this book. My life has been rescued because a few brave doctors have begun to understand how a virus or infection can truly attack your brain in such a way you seem completely mad.
Joshua Jones
Feb 14, 2016 Joshua Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I learned so much and have so many more questions. Well researched and written, but it seems tip of the iceberg?
Kelly Martin
Feb 08, 2016 Kelly Martin rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful book. I found the new theroy so interesting. We all need to read this book in order to protect ourselves.
Jul 01, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, medical
Did you know that there's now a medical link between viruses and bacteria, and psychiatric disorders such as anorexia, OCD and Tourette's? Did you know that having exposure to domestic cats increases the chances that someone in the household will be schizophrenic? Admittedly, the chances are still very small because there aren't that many schizophrenics occurring in the general population, but exposure does increase the odds.

There were a few points made in the book that really made an impact on
Nov 25, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it
I will read any book where the author writes about scientific research in a way that is easily understandable for people outside the field and still doesn't oversimplify the research findings. This is the first time I've come across the idea that microorganisms could be behind mental illnesses, but by the end of the book this was an idea I'd like to read more about.
Oct 18, 2016 Lynn rated it it was amazing
Excellent! My fave quote from the book (yeah, I know it's long, but worth it):

"...[S]ome scientists ask whether humans might be biologically impelled [because of the fear of strangers' germs and parasites] to shun, drive off, or kill strangers or anyone who appears different. Such musings often hinge on political speculation or tortured data, and they typically involve some theory of a brain irrevocably hardwired by evolutionary force to persecute outsiders. This carries the whiff of something r
Dec 20, 2015 Marya rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
The structure of this book is a bit uneven, but only because Washington doesn't really know the ending of this story. The research being described is so cutting edge, it's not always possible to know where the pieces fit together. The end result is that the book starts with a lot of momentum, but looses most of it by the end.

I really like how Washington detailed the traditional separation of mind and body and what that meant for medical care. Syphilis is a great example for an infection that wea
Linda Bond
Sep 12, 2016 Linda Bond rated it really liked it
Shelves: intelligent
Remarkably informative! I purchased this book at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, WA, an independent bookstore.
Adrian Verster
Feb 14, 2016 Adrian Verster rated it really liked it
This book addresses an idea that many people have probably never considered, that microorganisms such as bacteria could cause mental illness, that is to say that mental illness could be contagious. It is well researched, the writing has a lucid clarity to it and it does everything that good science writing should: it goes through history, into modern science, and combines personal stories and interviews.

But, a lot of the book rests on barely a mirage of quicksand. There are fascinating threads o
This book was ok. I wish it had given more in depth discussion and explanations of things, there were definitely a lot of points where it would mention something and I'd be expecting more in the next paragraph and... It would go on to another topic! But I think this is mostly due to there actually not being much more evidence or explanations for many of the topics covered here, I wish the author was more upfront about the relative strength of the studies presented, especially since this is for a ...more
Apr 21, 2016 Lissa rated it it was ok
Interesting perspectives. It is likely she is correct that many more conditions than we currently acknowledge are the result of infectious diseases. The book lacks concrete actions, except for one - flu vaccinations for everyone (but pregnant women), which lacks perspective and reliance on effectiveness data. It is tiresome to read, once again, someone proposing a public health action based on a sole concern, rather than considering overall public health. Flu vaccinations are notoriously ineffec ...more
Feb 02, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-health
I appreciated the amount of research that went into the development of this book. The Notes to the book provide a rich amount of resource information for further or more detailed follow-up. The book was a bit repetitive which made reading a little tedious at times. All in all a great book for anyone who wants to become more educated about the factors that impact their health and that of their loved ones. Also a great testament to keeping an open mind and to the importance of knowing your own hea ...more
Kate Scott
Oct 24, 2016 Kate Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: poc-authors
For decades, the evidence has piled up that a significant percentage of mental illnesses may be caused by latent infections. In Infectious Madness, intrepid medical journalist Harriet Washington does what much of the medical community refuses to do–impartially examine the evidence and advocate for intelligent, commonsense solutions to the infectious madness plaguing the modern world.

Continue reading here...
Oct 21, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it
This is a terrrific book about the evidence that there are infectious underpinnings to mental and other illnesses. I really had no idea that there was so many indications that mental illness could be on the rise due to our exposure to certain bacteria and infections, nor did I realize the extent to which not being exposed to the bacteria can cause other problems, like autoimmune disorders. I learned a great deal from it and I look forward to any further research that comes out on this topic.
May 22, 2016 Sandra rated it really liked it
As a physician, this book often left me wanting more supporting evidence, but it certainly gave me good food for thought. The author covers a lot of ground and makes a very compelling argument for the importance of not forgetting the connection between infectious disease and mental health disorders.
Jun 03, 2016 Beth rated it really liked it
This was a Goodreads giveaway. It took me forever to read this because it reads like a college psychology textbook. It has some very interesting info though & is well written. Anyone interested in psychology should check this out.
Arielle Tandowski
Jun 26, 2016 Arielle Tandowski rated it liked it
The first half of this was quite interesting, with different cases of infection caused mental disorders, but she get a bit ranty towards the second half and I was not as interested in her opinions as I was about the facts.
Jan 09, 2016 Jesse rated it liked it
I'm guessing this is a well researched and engaging book but to be honest most of it went way over my head as it was my first exposure (pun intended) to this sort of thinking. Maybe not as much for a general audience as I assumed.
Dec 11, 2015 Renee rated it liked it
This book covers an absolutely fascinating topic, but could use a whole bunch of editing. Some of the conclusions that the author reaches seem like a stretch, given the evidence, particularly in the last few chapters. Still, this is worth reading.
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Harriet Washington is the author of Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself and of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, which won the 2007 National Book Critics’ Circle Award and was named one of the year’s Best Books by Publishers’ Weekly. She has won many other awards for her work on medici ...more
More about Harriet A. Washington...

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