Psychiatry’s Incurable Hubris by G. Greenberg
The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it.
…But, as Earle knew, psychiatrists could not peer into a microscope to see the biological source of their patients’ suffering, which arose, they assumed, from the brain.
They were stuck in the premodern past, dependent on “the apparent mental condition [his emphasis], as judged from the outward manifestations,” to devise diagnoses and treatments.
The protracted attempt to usher psychiatry into medicine’s modern era is the subject of Anne Harrington’s Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness.
As her subtitle indicates, this is not a story of steady progress. Rather, it’s a tale of promising roads that turned out to be dead ends, of treatments that seemed miraculous in their day but barbaric in retrospect, of public-health policies that were born in hope but destined for disaster.
From ice baths to Prozac, each development Harrington describes was touted by its originators and adherents as the next great thing—and not without reason.