Mental illness is a highly controversial and contested field, informed by the ideas and research of academics and practitioners working in psychiatry, psychology, pharmacology, sociology, genetics and the neurosciences. This book brings clarity to a complex field, exploring core issues ranging from debates about the way the concept has been developed, transformed and expanded over time, to controversies over its causes.
The author evaluates critiques of the concept of mental illness and of the way its expanding boundaries now define a far wider range of mental states, experiences and activities as pathological, examining some of the changes that have been made in official psychiatric classifications since the Second World War. Arguing that these boundaries need to be restricted, the author contends that many of the phenomena identified as mental illness are normal reactions to life’s difficulties and that, while individuals may need support, it is not appropriate or helpful for such phenomena to be pathologized and treated as indicative of mental disorder. Other important topics covered include the way mental illness is measured, its distribution across populations and over time, and the different types of care provided for those with identified mental illness.
Mental Illness will prove invaluable for intending practitioners in medicine, psychiatry, mental health nursing, social work and clinical and health psychology, as well as for students in psychology, sociology, and the health sciences.
Table of Contents
List of Figures and Tables
- Concepts and Classifications
- Counting Cases
- Contested Causes
- Conceptual Controversies
- Care, Control and Costs
“Busfield's book provides a valuable overview of the contested nature of mental illness, offering a balanced critique of some of the key debates regarding psychiatric concepts and categories. She cautions against the extension of psychiatric boundaries to include those experiences that are more helpfully understood in their social context, emphasising the contribution of many complex factors to the classification of mental illness. Her book deserves to be read by anyone interested in mental health and illness, including professionals and students.”
—Kate Karban, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of Bradford
“Busfield has managed to capture in a single volume the breadth and depth of the highly contested and complex concept of mental illness. Original, accessible and engaging, this important book is a must read.”
— Kathleen Kendall, Senior Lecturer in Medical Education, University of Southampton
“The relabelling of human distress and eccentricity as mental disorder is one of the great social changes of our time. Such relabelling redefines the individual’s degrees of freedom and relationship to society in ways that move under the radar of the usual protections against excessive social control and subtly shift the obligation for change onto the individual even when the cause of a problem lies within the social context. Joan Busfield provides a breathtakingly lucid and remarkably comprehensive analysis of the vast cross-disciplinary terrain of argument about mental disorder and the meaning of the enormous expansion in disorder diagnoses over the past half century. Busfield brings not only her sociologist’s accomplished eye but also her trained clinician’s understanding and a deft wielding of conceptual distinctions to the multifaceted debates over the meaning and social impact of mental disorder. She skillfully avoids both the Scylla of antipsychiatric constructivism that denies the reality of true mental disorder and the Charybdis of DSM expansionism that sees all distress as “symptoms” of disorder, arriving at a much-needed middle-ground position that recognizes both the reality of mental disorder and the threat that excessive psychiatric labelling poses.”
— Jerome C. Wakefield, Professor of Psychiatry, New York University