Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature” as Want to Read:
Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  620 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Part of a Growing International Movement to Change the Face of Mental Illness.

Is madness purely a medical condition that can be treated with drugs? Is there really a clear dividing line between mental health and mental illness - or is it not so easy to classify who is sane and who is insane?

In Madness Explained leading clinical psychologist Richard Bentall shatters the mo
Paperback, 656 pages
Published April 29th 2004 by Penguin (first published June 5th 2003)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Madness Explained, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Madness Explained

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  620 ratings  ·  41 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I would have given this book four and a half stars were I able.

In any case, I found Bentall's book very accessible from a non-specialist's point of view. Throughout, he argues that Emil Kraepelin's foundational schema for classifying madness (into manic depressive and dementia praecox) is fraught with a number of problems and should be abandoned. In its place, psychiatrists should take a symptom-oriented approach. Rather than diagnosing a patient with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, psychiatr
Aurélien Thomas
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Is madness really what we think it is? The whole psychiatric industry relies upon the Kraepelian paradigm, whereas there is a well-defined variety of mental illnesses, clearly clear-cut from mental health, each with their own set of symptoms that, eh oh!, specific pills can address like we address a cold or a flu. Isn't it wonderful? Well, such simplistic view surely serves a whole flourishing and more than profitable market. Yet, is it sound? The question must be asked, because, in the end, it' ...more
I have been a fan of Bentall's ever since the early 1990s, when Harper's published an excerpt from his "Proposal to Classify Happiness as a Psychiatric Disorder." (see I dutifully tracked down the original, and it was just as clever, insightful and deadpan funny as I expected. So when I came across a mention of this book recently, I had to read it.

It was interesting and informative but OMG is it a slog. The book is intended to be intelligible to a lay au
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psych
The title of this book is misleading. Bentall has no better - but, in my view, a potentially more confusing - explanation of madness then those he wishes to supplant.

He starts fairly well by critique-ing the Kraepelin-ian (=medical/biological) model of mental illness. The reason why this reads well is because criticizing others is easy compared to bringing forth your own ideas. The trouble is that apart from his ad hominems against the seminal figures of psychiatric history, Bentall's writing co
Apr 09, 2020 rated it liked it
I have skimmed most of this book. I believe the title should have been something like "The history of madness. Evolution of psychosis in the psychiatric system of thought" . While the research for this book is outstanding, and the author carefully argued the backlashes of psychiatry in curing psychosis, schizophrenia and manic depression I found myself less interested in it. Why? Because I was hoping to get an understansing of what is particularly different in this individuals that such conseque ...more
Ade Bailey
Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am going to enjoy this. From the start it exposes that the way out of the epistemological quagmire that surrounds discussions of mental health (or whatever you call it) is to agree to agree with the most rudimentary taxonomies and classification systems provided they have coherence, stability and reliability. Validity need never be in question in a world where pragmatic silencing (in all its meanings) is 'result' enough.
The huge weight of evidence that different psychiatrists using different s
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book provides plenty of evidence that the current model of diagnosing and treating psychosis leaves a lot to be desired. The author writes as if he's chatting with the reader while citing and footnoting endless research studies and other evidence to support his hypotheses and claims. It sort of reads as a whodunnit in that he starts out investigating, proving and substantiating his assertion that human nature is more than just sanity and insanity, mental health and mental illness. We're not ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
A perfect introduction for people interested in a scientific approach to psychopathology
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book starts with a very concise history of psychiatry and how sanity is defined by the psychiatric model. It adopts a humanitarian view on what we called insanity, and grounds it within our social/cultural context. It presents evidence on the similarity of different classifications, specifically with schizophrenia, mania and depression, and proposes that we should abandon the Kraepelinian model of classification, and turn to a symptom-oriented model.

Whilst the book suggests that there is an
Alice Wardle
Oct 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wowee, reading Richard Bentall's ‘Madness: Psychosis Explained’ over the past few months has been a journey. I have had similar quandaries as Bentall about the classification of mental disorders, however, Bentall backs his ideas up with tons of research and is very coherent with his arguments. Psychosis is illusive to most of us and it is very difficult to explain something that is so alien to most people, yet Bentall does a remarkable job at doing this. Books like this are fantastic – whether y ...more
Sami Al Badri
Aug 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Again a great book for psychiatrists to read written by a psychologist. Being a psychologist helps to combat the arrogance that some psychiatrist have, to shake their confidence.

The 2nd part of the book is the most important. It was new to me to remark that delusions involve always (Others) &/or (Self). And that the brain's most import stimulus is (the other human being).

Also, that conclusion drown from (Encephalization) that it is because of... others !! Robin Dunbar and social procession in
Cal Davie
Sep 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic!

Psychosis and Mania are usually cited as symptoms that give legitimacy to the brain-disease model of mental illness. In this carefully researched work, Bentall details how this view is mistaken. Step by step Bentall takes us on a journey of how and why people go "mad" taking into account a variety of studies and perspectives. He provides us with a wonderful framework with how to understand those who mentally suffer. Furthermore, it invites the reader to think compassionately
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very good, academic overview of how the problems with psychiatry and its traditional views of madness developed. To me, the final section of the book, which was obviously the author's passion, should have been expanded. This was also obviously his original intention, but he was told to limit it for space reasons (something he mentions in the book). I hope he went on to write other books. ...more
Aug 26, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
Maybe his ideas have already become much more mainstream since the book was written, but the idea that mental health/illness is a) a spectrum and b) the constantly changing result of the interplay between biology and environment (both personal and societal) isn't exactly shocking. Some interesting research brought together in one book though. ...more
Eloise bookworm
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Finally done. It was informational! Lots to learn:)
Georgia Flatman
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Truly fascinating.
Jun 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Great premise but very dry to read. Although the book seems to be aimed at the lay reader it is much too bogged down in clinical jargon and statistics.
Elle de Barra
Jul 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing
As a psychology student this rocked my world lmao, really enlightening. Just so comprehensive and clarifying, I loved it as an approach that respects the dignity of patients the most
Anders Ohm
Aug 07, 2022 rated it liked it
Too long and detailed. Bentall's next one is better. ...more
Tiago Faleiro
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, owned
Its name certainly isn't misleading and gives a very impressive account of both psychosis and human nature. Bentall spends a significant portion of the book explaining, and then arguing against, what he calls the Kraepelin paradigm. The view that dominates current psychiatry, started by Kraepelin, the founder of modern scientific psychiatry in the early 20th century, and who popularized dementia praecox (what we now call schizophrenia). Bentall is more than qualified for this type of book and pr ...more
William Sandnes
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Madness Explained takes you on a journey through psychiatric history, research and development, and argues that the long-prevailing doctrine after Emil Kraepelin is deficient regarding many aspects.

Without reducing the book to a sentence, the main theme of the book is that psychosis and different kinds of mental disorders should be viewed as variations of normal psychology - that it belongs on a continuum between sane and insane, rather than being a different entity. He argues that we should no
Terri-louise Fountain
I have to give this book a neutral rating of 3 stars. Whilst it is well written and easy to read especially for those unfamiliar to the subject, I personally disagree with some of the points made. Whilst I agree that there are faults within the bio-medical model and its treatments, I can't completely accept the cognitive model as in this book, as there are some equally awful research papers with poorly constructed statistics on both sides. What I do appreciate though is the authors acceptance th ...more
Alannah Clarke
An interesting book but also something I never thought I would have to read for an English Literature module, on the surface it does look like something somebody would use for psychology. But overall it's something that can easily be used to help understand the mental illness I see in my module as the book is well written and offers such an interesting argument. ...more
Dec 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: counseling
Bentall is a non-Christian psychologist who doesn't buy in to the medical model for the description and explanation of madness. A very good book for an explanation of the history of mental illness and another good explanation for the etiology of schizophrenia. ...more
Rashad Raoufi
he makes a very powerful arguement, the book is well wrritten and absorbing to anyone with an interest in mental health, although there is alot of information to comprehend, the simple style makes it very clear and easy to read and understand,thought provoking and stimulating read.
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A scientific page turner is not something you come across often. Capable of changing your perspective, and very educational. Reading this book liberated me from some of my symptoms, just from knowing their nature and origin.
Oct 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this book examines the causes of many of the symptoms of madness in a humane and in-depth manner. There is some info as well about who ends up becoming mentally ill.
Angus MacHaggis
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Now I know me madness better!!!
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very clear and humane. I used it for building character and for a paper i was writing and it provided useful details for both.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this book! An excellent introduction to the fundamentals of history and philosophy of psychology, paired with radically new approach to psychiatric issues.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers
  • What We Talk about When We Talk about the Tube: The District Line
  • Courting the Wild Twin
  • Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry
  • Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
  • Bad Science
  • Philosophy 1: A Guide Through the Subject
  • Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind
  • Fundbüro
  • The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approach to Depression
  • De egoïst Max Stirner
  • Identity: Youth and Crisis
  • Libertarianism: A Primer
  • Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity
  • How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty
  • The Unheard
  • The Private Life of the Brain: Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret Life of the Self
  • The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us about Ourselves
See similar books…
See top shelves…

News & Interviews

October has arrived, and this month’s batch of incoming titles features some big names, some much-anticipated sequels, and several exotic...
41 likes · 4 comments
“There is no clear boundary between mental health and mental illness. Psychological complaints exist on continua with normal behaviours and experiences. Where we draw the line between sanity and madness is a matter of opinion.” 2 likes
“Go to hell, World! I cannot die in peace and safety. I cannot face the slightest breath of real life or death or ugliness. But I hurt for being such a coward. I was always a coward – socially, physically, mentally, sexually, emotionally. If I go insane, am I brave? I will, because then, and only then, I am brave, not a coward. [An excerpt from the diary of Jean Bouricius' son]” 0 likes
More quotes…