Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction

Further reading

This VSI has been a whirlwind tour round psychiatry. It does not aim to give a technical or professional understanding of the subject, nor to give advice about what to do for a psychiatric problem you think you or someone close to you may have. Hopefully you will feel able to approach a professional and will realize that there is a tolerant and welcoming reception for you if you do. Here are a few suggestions for those who want to read more.

Chapter 1

Gelder, M., Mayou, R., and Geddes, J., Psychiatry, Oxford Core Texts (OUP, 2005)

There are several textbooks of psychiatry but even the best of them is written to accompany practical training and my inclination would not be to recommend one. However if you really do want to look up a specific illness or problem then I would currently recommend a textbook rather than the web, which can be very confusing.

Chapters 2 and 3

Porter, Roy, Madness: A Brief History (OUP, 2002) Shorter, Edward, A History of Psychiatry (Wiley, 1997) Jones, Kathleen, Asylums and After (Athlone Press, 1993)

Almost anything by the late Roy Porter is worth reading on the history of asylums (which he called ‘museums of madness’). Shorter is even more critical of the profession. Kathleen Jones’s book is the classic and most balanced but no longer in print, though obtainable through libraries. All are entertaining but each has a definite perspective.

Chapter 4

Storr, Anthony, Freud: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2001)

Stevens, Anthony, Jung: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2001)

These are two short, jargon-free introductions to the two most dominant figures in the psychoanalytical movement.

Chapter 5

Laing, R. D., The Divided Self (Penguin Books, 1960)

Foucault, Michel, Madness and Civilization (Tavistock Publications, 1961)

Bentall, Richard, Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature (Penguin Books, 2003)

The Divided Self is the iconic anti-psychiatry text of the 1960s. Foucault is much harder to read. Bentall brings the debate up to the minute with a more scientific, less philosophical, approach but which is still very challenging. All these books are still in print.

Chapter 6

Porter’s and Shorter’s books have lots to say about these issues too. Erving Goffman, Asylums (1961), is rather long but led the charge against the asylums by exposing malpractice.


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