Better than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional

Dale Archer, M.D. Crown Archetype, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-88746-7
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Concerned about the mental health trend of “Overevaluating. Overdiagnosing. And most important of all, overmedicating,” psychiatrist Archer identifies the dominant trait of each of eight disorders and says they exist on a spectrum in everyone, from absent to superdominant. He argues that if someone exhibits a trait associated with a disorder but the trait is not “superdominant” and is properly managed, it can be seen as a strength, not a mental disorder, and may make the person “better than normal.” For instance, someone may be adventurous, hence restless and easily bored, but they do not have ADHD. Similarly, someone may be a perfectionist and not have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other disorders he covers include narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality, and schizophrenia. As the title suggests, this is an upbeat book. Archer tends to rely too heavily on the experiences of people he has treated or known, and on his own personality and experiences (“Last week I found myself in Los Angeles, celebrating the Oscars.... Next, it’s on to New York, where I’m... appearing on television to talk about Charlie Sheen.” With his fresh approach and some interesting ideas, Archer normalizes personality characteristics too often seen as pathological. But his book covers too much in an often cursory, anecdotal manner. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2011
Release date: 03/13/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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