Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” as Want to Read:
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,336 Ratings  ·  338 Reviews
Now with bonus material, including a new foreword and afterword with updated research

In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the governm
...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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 Anatomy of an Epidemic, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Charley Raiff Anatomy of An Epidemic has more of a personal and argumentative tone to it in my opinion. Tells more personal stories whereas mad in america largely…moreAnatomy of An Epidemic has more of a personal and argumentative tone to it in my opinion. Tells more personal stories whereas mad in america largely reads as a history lesson. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Stephanie
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psycology, medical, 2011
Anatomy of an Epidemic is about the history of psychiatric drugs and the rise of mental illness in America right alongside these drugs development and evolution. 1'100 adults and CHILDREN are added to the government's disabled list for mental illness, daily. This didn't happen prior to 25 years ago, before big pharmaceutical companies saw $$ with the release of Prozac. Before Prozac , Eli-Lilly's biggest money maker was an antibiotic.

I realize many people have benefited from these drugs. They h
...more
Kennan
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this book four stars if not for the fact that I felt the Mr. Whitaker was overly antagonistic in his writing, and at times even dishonest in his presentation of "facts."

His citations are frequently careless, and he cherry-picks not only the studies he presents, but also the which ones he provides access to through his website. At one point I checked a cited quote to find that he found it in a blurb on a book jacket! Unprofessional.

So much of this book, though, is true that it
...more
Lorri Coburn
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anatomy of an Epidemic gives facts and figures on the astonishing rise in social security disability cases due to mental illness. Whitaker makes a comparison between the advent of Prozac in 1987 and the subsequent 37-fold increase in disability cases. What I found interesting is that his observations, backed by data, paralleled my anecdotal observations in my psychotherapy practice. In fact, prior to reading this book I had planned on writing a book about the limits of psychotherapy, and had act ...more
K
I voted for two polarized reviews of this book -- one extolling its virtues, the other dismissing its arguments as simplistic. I suspect both are valid.

As a psychologist I frequently meet individuals of all ages who are taking psychotropic medication. Medication as an appropriate treatment option is unquestioned by most of the people I work with, although my colleagues often bemoan the fact that people prefer medication to therapy, thinking popping some pills will be a quick fix. I was required
...more
Jeffrey May
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Medication Madness. A must read. Usually, I don’t open with my bottom line, but in this case, it should be stated up front – you absolutely must read this book. Since “one in every eight” of us “takes a psychiatric drug on a regular basis” you or someone you know will be profoundly influenced by Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy Of An Epidemic. Using thorough research, flawless logic, and an almost overwhelming number of studies, he reveals that psychiatric drugs are prescribed under false assumptions. ...more
Phoebe
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm surprised to see so many people swallow these ideas whole. Take this book with a grain of salt.
Kater Cheek
This book is written with an agenda, and I usually don't like one-sided arguments, but in this case, the argument is one that I was already disposed to believe: namely, that taking mind-altering drugs does not make a person mentally healthy. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a strong personal aversion to drugs of any sort (not you caffeine! You're different! BFF!) but I made an occasional exception in my anti-drug worldview for the case of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and the like when ...more
michelle
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book pissed me off, but not in the way I think the author would have liked.

Personally I believe Whitaker is correct in that we are overmedicated and this is primarily because of the push by pharmaceutical companies and malleable doctors. I am also of the belief that children should only be medicated in the most extreme of circumstances, not at the slightest change in behaviour or mood.

However, he lost me due to the general tone he used when speaking about those of us who choose medication t
...more
Melody
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entirely damning look at the psychiatric profession, Big Pharma, NIMH and the epidemic of mental illness the combination has caused. Whitaker looks at rates of diagnosis of such currently common maladies as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and ADHD. He cites statistic after statistic showing how much better off most of the mentally ill are without medication, and in a terrifying chapter, focuses on what anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and ADHD drugs appear to be doing to the long-te ...more
Amy
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-issues
I found this fascinating read because it was recommended by Scientific American. Once I began I couldn't stop reading it or telling my husband everything about it. So many things I thought I knew about mental illness turn out to be wrong. Any study that has attempted to find a chemical imbalance in a population with schizophrenia or depression has failed to find one. Psychiatric drugs work by causing the brain to function abnormally, not by returning an abnormal brain to a normal state. Over tim ...more
Kate
Oh my God! This book opened my eyes to the dangers of psychoactive medications, like antidepressants, and the cavalier attitude of psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry to the damage they can potentially cause. Of course, most psychiatrists who have critiqued and commented on this book totally miss the point, and their objections to it are straw man objections. This book is good--I couldn't put it down, and it is so scary! A clear explanation as to why capitalism and medical care DO NOT MIX ...more
Mike
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
The book is an argument rather than an unemotional account, but compelling and one hell of an eye-opener, especially for someone like me who is (or was) a full-on believer in a strict biological psychology. Psychiatry (and psychology) may have something to offer, but currently it’s a field full of distortions, flatout lies, and pharmaceutical cronyism; university and medical school courses perpetuate this, along with the media, the APA, and NIMH--all, at least, according to this book. Strongly r ...more
Elizabeth
So biased that it began to piss me off so much I simply could not read the last 30 pages.
Rise
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm so angry about this I could spit nails. This is a must-read for anyone considering going on antidepressants. The author reveals that the drugs most commonly used in treating mental illness have been unsuccessful in improving the health and well-being of the people they were intended to help; more to the point, they have made people worse by permanently altering their brain functions, consigning many to a lifetime of medication cocktails. The psychological establishment and big pharma have su ...more
Dave Biggus
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
All I can say is: I had NO IDEA!. I'm familiar with the supposed science behind the chemical imbalance theory of psychiatric conditions. I think everyone's heard something along these lines: too much or too little dopamine, or serotonin, or other neurotransmitters can cause psychological problems. The medical basis for "you must be out of whack!" Only trouble is, it isn't known to be true! People aren't tested for, say, dopamine levels, and on the basis of that test given Ritalin. They are given ...more
Jeff
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I declare this a must-read.

Before reading this book, I had assumed that the "explosion" of mental illness over the last few decades was 100% pure diagnosis bloat and pursuit of government disability cheese. The truth appears to be much worse than that.

I won't repeat the book's summary but Whitaker's review of patient outcomes for the various "mental illnesses" with and without medication is damning. It's worse than damning.

I'm astonished at the incredibly flimsy pretexts for which children are g
...more
Justin
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent (albeit polemical at times) account of the modern history of mental illness in the United States, one whose prevalence has been largely driven (unsurprisingly) by artificial demand created by large pharmaceutical concerns, as well as by plain old backward-thinking.

While Anatomy is not a conclusive bit of scientific research, it nevertheless manages to fashion a convincing argument that suggests that our current "chemical imbalance in the brain" paradigm for mental illness is at b
...more
P Chulhi
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biomedical
This is required reading for anyone who has an interest in psychotropic medications (e.g., neuroleptics, SSRIs, benzodiazepines, etc.). Whitaker not only does an excellent job reviewing the relevant literature concerning these drugs, he also gives the reader a "behind the scenes" look at the psychopharmacology "revolution" and the evolution of the modern practice of psychiatry. This is scientific journalism as it should be.

Interestingly, the author started out as a firm believer in the conventio
...more
Wendy
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Renewed this book from the library twice and read a few other books in the meantime and still couldn't get though it. Wanted to hear his argument but the heavy handedness of the first part made it difficult to get through. Maybe someday I'll get back to it and finish it. Until then, I'll continue to work with people on their emotions and relationships but also using meds when needed. Just because the psych meds we have now don't 'cure' doesn't mean they're not useful to relieve suffering and giv ...more
Emily
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: required-reading
This book changed my views of the modern world, revolutionized my thought process, and probably saved my life. Everyone should read this.
Ryan Snyder
If you're a scientologist, this is a really good, self-affirming book read. If you are a stats nerd, it's just manipulating research and data to serve a bias.
Colleen
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book because I was one of the adolescents put on Prozac in the 90s for my "social anxiety." I was 15 and so would begin 18 years of various drugs and dosages and cocktails to fix my "chemical imbalance." I was told that I suffered from a hereditary or genetic imbalance that I would have to manage my entire life with drugs. When they stopped working, the drug would be upped to an off label dose or a new drug given or added on top. I've been on them all, and none worked for very lon ...more
Deb
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a damning critique of modern psychiatry in the United States. If this book is true, then many of the things I thought I knew about mental illness are just plain wrong. Whitaker lays out study after study that undermines the current system of care in our country. No studies have been able to prove the "chemical imbalance" argument for antidepressants and neuroleptics. Recovery rates for people with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in the US are far worse now than the er ...more
Thomas Edmund
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed the way I think....


Not so much because of the main thrust of the arguement: That psychotropic drugs are much worse than many academics let on, largely due to the fact their pay packets come from pharmacutical companies.

But because I realised I agreed somewhat with Scientologists.

Sorry let me summarise this book. Anatomy of an Epidemic, will take you through the recent history of psychotropic drugs, taking a number of different perspectives including, academic research, case
...more
Laura
May 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really shook this psychology major's worldview. I was taught in college that most psychological problems are because of a chemical imbalance in the brain and that psychiatric drugs are a useful and valuable tool in fixing these problems. This book quite convincingly lays out the evidence that this is not true. No researcher has ever been able to prove the "chemical imbalance" theory. Rather, psychiatric drugs create chemical imbalances in the brain (not fix them).

The author presents r
...more
Karina
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OTHER RELATED INTERESTING TIDBITS

I think anyone interested in this book would also like the following article and the following film links:

How medical research is done and what it means (and DOESN'T mean):
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/a...

The idea that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance is not universally accepted. If you said that idea in Europe, they would look at you like you had 3 heads. In Finland, they are very successful treating schizophrenia, and most often without a
...more
Charlene Smith
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his book Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, Robert Whitaker refers to the “conundrum” posed by oft touted media claims of significant advances in psychiatric care. He notes: “We should expect that the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States, on a per-capita basis, would have declined over the past fifty years. We should also expect that the number of disabled mentally ill, on a per-capita basis, would ...more
Gail Marie
(NOTE: I did not officially skim the entire book; I had to return it to the library and was getting caught up in some of the more technical parts. It did not help that I was reading Franzen's "Freedom" at the same time, which I couldn't read often or quickly enough. The article that spawned the book by Whitaker is here: www.freedom-center.org/.../anatomy_of.... It's worth your time.)

Currently skimming...it's quite troubling. An interview with the author in Salon is a good introduction to the bo
...more
David Everling
I thought this book was just ok, but I can easily see how it would be quite useful or illuminating for others. The book is a very thoroughly researched and cataloged litany of long term health outcomes opposing psychiatric drug treatment for the vast majority of mental diagnoses. Decidedly against the "Big Pharma" industry, but just as much a rant against a blindness to ineffective or harmful psychiatric drug practice itself, chastising the medical practitioners and policy makers while warning t ...more
Karl Seidel
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone currently taking drugs prescribed by psychiatrists
This author should win a Pulitzer Prize...no...a Nobel Prize! His work will save hundreds - maybe 1000's of lives! This may or may not be what the Nobel prize award committee has in mind, but this book and his work matter because he exposes the underbelly of a malevolent force - Dr.'s prescribing drugs they know very little about.

Whitaker uses the literature of the AMA, APA and other "interested" parties, to tell a story you won't want to read if you think you're being effectively treated by ant
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What does this book mean for changing our system of mental health care? 7 37 Jun 21, 2016 01:29AM  
  • Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry - A Doctor's Revelations about a Profession in Crisis
  • The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth
  • Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche
  • Agnes's Jacket: A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness
  • Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature
  • The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry
  • An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine
  • Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation
  • Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-Of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life
  • Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates
  • The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness
  • Edison and the Electric Chair: A Story of Light and Death
  • The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct
  • Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good
  • The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder
  • Trouble In Mind: Stories From A Neuropsychologist's Casebook
  • The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease
  • Great and Desperate Cures: The Rise and Decline of Psychosurgery and Other Radical Treatments for Mental Illness
25674
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...

Share This Book

“If you expand the boundaries of mental illness, which is clealry what has happened in this country during the past twenty-five years, and you treat the people so diagnosed with psychiatric medications, do you run the risk of turning an anger-ridden teenager into a lifelong mental patient? (p. 30)” 17 likes
“In the United States, people with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia are losing twelve to twenty years in life expectancy compared to people not in the mental health system. (176)” 11 likes
More quotes…