cover image The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry

The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry

Gary Greenberg. Penguin/Blue Rider, $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-399-15853-7

The rewriting of the bible of psychiatry shakes the field to its foundations in this savvy, searching exposé. Greenberg (Manufacturing Depression), a journalist and practicing psychotherapist, follows the American Psychiatric Association’s years-long revision of DSM-5, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which dictates to the industry everything from diagnoses and research programs to the all-important insurance billing codes. In his telling, it’s a saga of fraught politics masquerading as disinterested medicine, as controversies explode around proposals to add grieving a family member’s death to the roster of mental illnesses, delete Asperger’s syndrome, and concoct vague new maladies—Attenuated Psychosis Symptom Disorder?—that could be used to rationalize treating millions of patients with ravaging drugs. The author digs deeper, questioning whether there is any organic reality underlying the DSM’s confident taxonomy of disorders and suggesting that “psychiatric diagnosis is built on fiction and sold to the public as fact.” Deploying wised-up, droll reportage from the trenches of psychiatric policy-making and caustic profiles of the discipline’s luminaries, Greenberg subjects the practices of the mental health industry—his own included—to a withering critique. The result is a compelling insider’s challenge to psychiatry’s scientific pretensions—and a plea to return it to its humanistic roots. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (May)