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Mind Fixers

Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness
Narrated by: Joyce Bean
Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Summary

The story of the unfulfilled quest to find the biological basis of mental illness, and its profound effects on patients, families, and American society.

In the 1980s, American psychiatry announced that it was time to toss aside Freudian ideas of mental disorder because the true path to understanding and treating mental illness lay in brain science, biochemistry, and drugs. This sudden call to revolution, however, was not driven by any scientific breakthroughs. Nor was it as unprecedented as it seemed. Why had previous efforts stalled? Was this latest call really any different? 

In Mind Fixers, Anne Harrington offers the first comprehensive history of the troubled search for the biological basis of mental illness. She makes clear that this story is not just about laboratories and clinical trials, but also momentous public policies, acrid professional rivalries, cultural upheavals, grassroots activism, and profit-mongering. Harrington traces a consistent thread of over-promising and frustrated hopes. Above all, she helps us understand why psychiatry’s biological program is in crisis today, and what needs to happen next.

©2019 by Anne Harrington. (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

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  • Umar
  • London
  • 17-07-19

Best history of psychiatry there is

Comprehensive and very fair history of psychiatry. Much less gung-ho than 'Shrinks' and better for it.

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Greatly informative

A great book for anyone learning/ discovering psychology for the first time and a great re-cap of what the history of psychology was.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Tibbles
  • 28-04-19

A summary relevant to each of us

18 months ago I chose to quit my job and return to school, at 40, to move from a successful career to therapy. I did this because of personal experience caring for those with life-debilitating and life-threatening mental illness.

In these 18 months I have become increasingly disenfranchised with nearly every aspect of psychology. It seems to be a world filled with those who wish to do good and yet are lost in how to productively express their empathy.

Anne Harrington has, in my humble and undereducated opinion, summarized the steps taken, be they research, social, or political, which have landed the world in this multi-point contemporary Scylla and Charybdis that is mental health care. With straightforward descriptions and well-thought examples this book lays bare a century-and-a-half of tug-of-war practices leading eventually to the landscape of confusion and corruption we all face today.

Read, or listen to, this book. It is of significance to each of us and to those whom we love.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas Teague
  • 07-05-19

Psychiatry at a cross roads

Dr. Harrington lured me into her book with a very interesting, if understated, interview on NPR.

While giving an amazing history of mental health, psychiatry and pharmaceuticals, Harrington provides the human side of the story without shying away from the unfortunate, dehumanizing and parochial views mental health professionals, namely psychiatrists, held throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This book documents the dialectical progress of the field as mental health professionals and society searched for new and better answers to mental disorders.

What becomes painfully clear through this book is that the hunt for simple or even logical solutions to mental health problems is a pipe dream. Our understandings of chemical imbalances corrected by medications are almost all fictions dreamed up by marketing firms. It becomes clear that psychiatry needs to reevaluate its current course, just as it has done throughout its history.

As much as this book challenges our views about the field it also throws down the gauntlet over failed reforms of the mental health system in the US initiated by the Kennedy administration, as well as the long term consequences of Lyndon Johnson’s great society program. The destruction of mental hospitals and the failure of the community based approach have lead to burdens on families and the mentally ill roaming the streets homeless. Public policy is a critical component in creating and alleviating the burdens on our most at risk populations.

Harrington also, without directly saying so, does a fantastic job of dealing with the intersectionality of many mental health issues. She does not shy away from racism, sexism, and homophobia reflected in psychiatry’s enforcement of “normal behavior.”

This book is a compelling read, contains fascinating case studies from the key turning points in psychology, and takes a humanistic and compassionate approach. It was easy to follow as a layman and at points I found it simply jaw dropping. I highly recommend it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-05-19

Has potential

This book is a struggle to finish. I decided to stop listening. The narrator speaks in a condescending, judgemental and non-emotional tones. The story itself is and should be interesting, but it isn't. I was really looking forward to this book, sad it disappointed.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathleen
  • 24-06-19

Balance in storytelling?

Lots good factual information, not necessarily told with balanced or empathic viewpoint. Not sure why.

Reader could be more variable in intonations and emphases. Sometimes i put this on at night to help myself fall asleep (then re-listened in morning)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Carlos Mario Cortés H.
  • 22-05-19

muy completo, pero tal vez innecesariamente largo

Me costó un poco no perder la atención. Se sumerge en detalles históricos tal vez innecesarios. Pero en general, el recorrido es claro y completo. Preferiría una versión más corta y eché de menos una reflexión filosófica sobre el tema; la anécdota se queda corta.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Drake
  • 13-05-19

An excellent modern history of psychiatry

This should be required reading for any young physician considering becoming a psychiatrist—especially the final chapters.
At least another generation of scientific discovery and innovation will clearly be needed—
This profession needs some brilliant help

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ronald
  • 12-05-19

We all have a family member with mental illness

It's the most coherent explanation I've heard of how we got to modern psychiatric practice, explained as history. This is a fascinating book that will improve the understanding of everyone with a family member treated for mental illness--and that seems to be everyone.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Clifford S Davidson
  • 24-10-19

Doesn’t Add Much

This book does not add much to a critical discussion of psychiatry, biological psychiatry more specifically, and psychiatry of the last 150 years than a number of other books that have gone before. The book also meanders often from its thesis, and does not do much to support that thesis—functioning more as a historical overview with a good dose of skepticism—namely, that we have failed to treat psychic suffering with much success, if any, via biology, standard medicine, or pharmacology. The book fails to meaningfully engage with the numerous major *successes* of psychiatry and psychopharmacology of the last 70 years, even as the book often describes those successes. The “mind fixers” may have not encyclopedically or exhaustively discovered how the brain works, but they have helped the mental lives of countless many.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-09-19

Good history, missing pieces

Overall I found Harrington's critique of psychiatry engaging and enlightening, but her work does little to address alternative points of view or evidence gathered by neuroscientists over the past decade. I learned a lot but was frustrated by the sometimes arbitrary reasoning used to reach certain conclusions.

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  • Penelope
  • 23-08-19

Irritating narration.

The narrator sounds profoundly angry at having to read the text. Listening is like being scolded. It’s hard not to wince at the sound of her voice. Despite having a strong interest in the subject matter, I couldn’t get past the third chapter. Returning.