International Bestseller • "An extraordinarily important book." —Marcia Angell, Harvard Medical School
A deeply fascinating and urgently important critique of the widespread medicalization of normality, by "one of the world's most prominent psychiatrists" (The Atlantic)
Anyone living a full, rich life experiences ups and downs, stresses, disappointments, sorrows, and setbacks. Today, however, millions of people who are really no more than "worried well" are being diagnosed as having a mental disorder and receiving unnecessary treatment. In Saving Normal, Allen Frances, one of the world's most influential psychiatrists, explains why stigmatizing a healthy person as mentally ill leads to unnecessary, harmful medications, the narrowing of horizons, the misallocation of medical resources, and the draining of the budgets of families and the nation. We also shift responsibility for our mental well-being away from our own naturally resilient brains and into the hands of "Big Pharma," who are reaping multi-billion-dollar profits. Frances cautions that the newest edition of the "bible of psychiatry," the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5), is turning our current diagnostic inflation into hyperinflation by converting millions of "normal" people into "mental patients." Saving Normal is a call to all of us to reclaim the full measure of our humanity.
Wary of liberties being taken by the psychiatric community with its definition of "normal," Frances (Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis) goes on a sobering foray through mental disorders and the social institutions that have defined and redefined them. These recalibrations will be promulgated, most prominently, by the soon-to-be-published DSM-5. Frances, who served as the chairperson for DSM-IV, explains that the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (widely known as the "bible of psychiatry") has been recklessly expanded and rejiggered, to the point that nearly anything can now be pegged as an aberration. Such "diagnostic inflation" entails the obvious risks of unnecessary and/or excessive treatment, but perhaps even more pernicious is its grander effects on what society not just specialists deem normal. Despite Frances's years of professional experience, his analysis is sometimes scattered with historical and cultural asides that, while interesting, do not clarify the trajectory and impact of the DSM. Still, few are as well-equipped as Frances to map the dynamic field of psychiatry, and his rendering of its shifting contours is timely, crucial, and insightful as are his solutions for navigating it.