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Publisher's Summary

For more than half a century, Thomas Szasz has devoted much of his career to a radical critique of psychiatry. His latest work, Psychiatry: The Science of Lies, is a culmination of his life’s work: to portray the integral role of deception in the history and practice of psychiatry.

Szasz argues that the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness stands in the same relationship to the diagnosis and treatment of bodily illness that the forgery of a painting does to the original masterpiece. Art historians and the legal system seek to distinguish forgeries from originals. Those concerned with medicine, on the other hand - physicians, patients, politicians, health-insurance providers, and legal professionals - take the opposite stance when faced with the challenge of distinguishing everyday problems in living from bodily diseases, systematically authenticating non-diseases as diseases. The boundary between disease and non-disease - genuine and imitation, truth and falsehood - thus becomes arbitrary and uncertain.

There is neither glory nor profit in correctly demarcating what counts as medical illness and medical healing from what does not. Individuals and families wishing to protect themselves from medically and politically authenticated charlatanry are left to their own intellectual and moral resources to make critical decisions about human dilemmas miscategorized as “mental diseases” and about medicalized responses misidentified as “psychiatric treatments.”

Delivering his sophisticated analysis in lucid prose and with a sharp wit, Szasz continues to engage and challenge readers of all backgrounds.

Thomas Szasz is professor emeritus of psychiatry at the State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.

©2008 Thomas Szasz (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"[Thomas Szasz] is the preeminent critic of psychiatry in the world." (Richard Vatz, Ph.D., Professor of Rhetoric and Communication, Towson University)

What listeners say about Psychiatry

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Don’t bother

As a prospective psych student, I thought it would be a good idea to broaden my perspective and while Thomas does raise a very valid point in relation to liberties, psychiatric care and the stigma that can follow a mental diagnosis, the argument became diluted by his diatribe against Freud. We get it, you don’t like him - but to dismiss the young field of psychiatry and its contribution to patient care and medicine would be akin to dismissing apothecary from pharmacy.
The book is less a structured critique of medical validity and more a conservative smear campaign on the discipline. With over 35 books written, perhaps Thomas has a more persuasive essay written somewhere else but this book was lacklustre.

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Great book and well worth the read

Szasz's view is an interesting and well thought through combination of Libertarian and anti-psychiatric thinking. Most writers who question psychiatry do so from a liberal/progressive perspective. Szasz's Libertarianism brings him to some logical and consistent views that more liberal writers are silent on - particularly in regards to psychiatry's role in maintaining the social taboo on suicide via coercive psychiatric interventions.

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  • Michael
  • 11-04-2012

Over four hours of rant, with lack of rationale

This audiobook caught my attention since I thought it might provide insights into problems with modern psychiatry. In fact, the narration was pretty good, giving it a serious and somewhat determined read.

Unfortunately, I expected too much. The first three or so hours were mostly spent ranting about Sigmund Freud and select other figures from around Freud’s time, where most of the attack was on the character of the people rather than the actual psychological paradigms they devised. No doubt, certain old psychological philosophies were fraught with questionable explanations and diagnostic procedures, but few modern psychologists rely on such tactics today. Basing its primary arguments against such paradigms as Psychoanalysis and such persons as Franz Mesmer, the mesmeriser, this book is clearly attacking some of the weakest, most outdated beliefs in the entire field.

The author’s most repeated argument, or statement, is that “there is no such thing as mental illness”. He basically dismisses psychology and psychiatry as falsehoods that study a “mind” that “does not exist”. His arguments against the existence of mental disorders are weaker than even the most speculative psychoanalytic theories, making him quite a hypocrite. His primary premise is effectively “If there is no apparent lesion or other abnormality visible in the brain under a microscope, then no illness is present”. His reasoning here is like saying “the pages of words in book x look very much like the pages of words in book y, and since book x has no logical fallacies, book y must also be free from any such problems”. Being that his original thesis and books were written in the 50s and 60s, I guess it is no surprise that he is ignorant about many of the functional abnormalities of the brain that are now easier to recognise using fMRI and newer techniques, and about the enlarged cerebral ventricles of persons with advanced schizophrenia. Psychology and cognitive neuroscience are continually advancing, but the author seems to be stuck in the easier-to-refute past and fixated on characters rather than concepts.

The next biggest argument of his can be summed-up as follows: “Since people are capable of imitation and since a number of practitioners have witnessed patients lying about having mental illness, all claims of mental illness, whether from patient or from practitioner, are completely fabricated”. Moreover, no grounds are provided to support this inductive assertion.

I should let you know, I do believe that a fair share of psychiatrists are illegitimate practitioners who make hasty, shadily-supported diagnoses with catch-all labels, and I do believe that psych-drugs are often prescribed or pushed when other options are more appropriate; but the author’s extreme position that mental disorders do not exist, and that anyone claiming they do is a liar, is exceedingly callous. Feel free to buy this audiobook if you want an outdated rant, entrenched with shallow, poorly-supported arguments.

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  • R Quincy
  • 10-01-2021

Outdated Ideas. Not worth investigating in 2021.

While he would have some good points about 50 years ago, modern research into neurology, brain scanning technological improvements & behavioural therapy results (from newer behavioural therapy systems) now invalidate his most basic presumption. While I agree that we cannot yet call every definition in the DSM / ICD 'scientifically proven', trends in behaviour based off of learned thought (neuronal) patterns ARE a real problem in society & can be seen visually in brain scans. They can also be corrected. And while the DSM / ICD have always had issues with embarrassing mistakes (homosexuality, hysteria, etc), as with any REAL science, when new information was found, definitions, theories, & therapeutic approaches all shifted to contend with these new observations. Psychology as a field surely still has long way to go as far as efficacy goes, but it is self-adjusting enough that terming it a 'science' is no longer a true misnomer.

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  • Dee
  • 08-10-2021

Not what I expected

The narration was good. It provided a lot of history. It seemed very opinionated.

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  • Hanna ODonnell
  • 27-10-2021

Ignorance

The amount of pure ignorance the author gives in this book is unbelievable. Stating mental illness is all a lie when you can see brain scans of healthy brain function vs depressive, adhd, anxiety brains. You can see the difference in these brain scans. You can see this difference in cognitive functioning. I can’t believe this book was allowed to be published.

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  • Taylor Britton
  • 08-07-2021

great companion to The Myth of Mental Illness

a great companion read to The Myth of Mental Illness. the metaphor of art forgery to explain diagnostic forgery is great. maybe Szasz what primed to see the flaws in the metaphor of mental illness because he is so good at using effective metaphors.

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  • Carlos Mario Cortés H.
  • 09-05-2017

interesante, pero...

La tesis de este libro es fascinante así como su afirmación final. Sin embargo, la argumentación deja un sinsabor. Me queda faltando un comentario sobre los casos de pacientes mentales realmente incapacitados.

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  • Steve
  • 07-01-2017

Brilliant

Makes you think and question the world and the way most see it. A great enjoyable read!

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  • Dennis
  • 26-12-2011

psychiatry spoiled by incompetent narrator

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The content is a well known sumamry of Szasz's ideas and concepts. Mental illness as metaphor and the damage done to libertarian ideals by the controll of the psyhciatric elite. The new religion of the state.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Psychiatry?

His history of the development of mad doctoring.

Would you be willing to try another one of Tom Weiner’s performances?

No - very disappointing. Trying to fit Szasz's own voice in would make more sense. His phrasing lends far more credibility to his ideas. Weiner talks too fast and with almost no sense of the power of the story he is telling - very disappointed.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No - not able to made into a movie

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  • Alan Michael Forrester
  • 12-04-2013

A good summary of Szasz's criticism of psychiatry

In "Psychiatry: The Science of Lies", Thomas Szasz argues that psychiatry is not about mental illness: it is about lies. Mental illnesses are in general not specified in terms of structural or chemical changes in the human body. Rather they are specified in terms of behaviour. So there are no objective tests for mental illness before or after a person dies. They are literally just labels for behaviour that people dislike. The point of such a label is to deny the moral agency of the person diagnosed with that label. Sometimes a mental patient seeks out this status to get drugs they want or to avoid prison after committing a crime. Sometimes somebody else seeks to impose the label on the mental patient because the mental patient's behaviour is deemed inconvenient. So psychiatry is about people lying to one another, and to themselves. The book is well written and is narrated well by Tom Weiner.

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  • Liz McKinnell
  • 04-10-2021

Wrong, but interestingly wrong

Good narration.

Weiner overreaches in using the slippery and culturally influenced nature of mental diagnosis to deny mental illness altogether.

Part of the problem rests on his huge overconfidence about the scientific objectivity of diagnosis of physical illnesses, and his inability to make a clear distinction between the illness as it affects the patient, and its underlying cause.

Also rather sensationalist in the insistence that all who disagree with him are frauds and liars.

I should probably point out for any trans and non binary listeners that there’s also a random bit of unsubstantiated transphobia in there, which is only tenuously related to anything else.

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  • Matt
  • 01-08-2021

Nonsense factory don’t waste your time

Unbalanced attack on an established medical group. Utter rubbish.

Don’t waste your time on this

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