August 1963

Is Mental Illness a Medico-Social "Myth"?

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1963;9(2):175-178. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1963.01720140071011

In his book The Myth of Mental Illness and in other writings1-4 Thomas Szasz has challenged some of the basic tenets of modern dynamic and social psychiatry. It is my purpose here to examine his critique.

Dr. Szasz' Theses  In essence, Dr. Szasz proposes that modern psychiatry came into being about tenscore years ago as the illegitimate offspring of an unholy liaison between physicians and lawyers; Dr. Szasz sayeth not who seduced whom. Since the parents were—and, according to Szasz, still are and ought to be—strangers who spoke different languages and had different habitats, ikons, and rituals, psychiatrists have ever since been caught in a double bind of schizophrenogenic proportions. Thus, analysts currently profess to acknowledge no moral or legal values, yet most are both ethical and law abiding, whereas social psychiatrists tend to equate morality with maturity and rationality—terms which are equally arbitrary and oppressive.

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