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September 11, 1987

The Medical Basis of Psychiatry

Author Affiliations

Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston

Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston

JAMA. 1987;258(10):1396-1397. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400100134039

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This is an unusual and an unusually interesting book. It is based on the premise that "Psychiatric illness is a medical illness with major emotional and behavioral aspects." As such, the major psychiatric disorders are first defined and then their epidemiology, signs and symptoms, etiology, differential diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment are described. The editors employ the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association as the basis for their classifications and definitions of psychiatric illness and their order of presentation.

The descriptions of the individual illnesses are extremely well done, with extensive documentation from sources largely published within the last 15 years; indeed, in one chapter of 27 text pages there are 15 pages of apt and current citations. Biologic and genetic causations are invoked where the current evidence is available and valid; social forces are not neglected, again documented by citation of carefully planned and executed case-control series.