Friday, December 26, 2008

A Book Review for the New Year

In 2009 a fellow psychiatrist's book will be on the shelves - ‘The Meaning of Madness’ by Dr Neel Burton. This book aims to explore what mental disorders can teach us about human nature and the human condition. For example, what is schizophrenia? Why is it so common? Why does it affect human beings and not animals? What might this tell us about mind and body, language and creativity, music and religion? What are the boundaries between mental disorder and ‘normality’? Is there a relationship between mental disorder and genius?

The book looks behind the usual categories to ask: why does this mental disorder exist and what adaptive or evolutionary advantage, if any, could it have? It’s an interesting way of looking at things, and one that puts a much needed positive spin on illnesses which are usually portrayed as being nothing but negative.

According to Professor Bill Fulford of Oxford University, ‘The Meaning of Madness’ contrasts from other books on mental disorder in that it neither polemical nor over-technical. Instead, it provides a highly readable and at the same time authoritative account that, by combining literary, philosophical, and scientific sources, shows the deep connections between ‘madness’ and some of most important attributes as human beings. The book’s central message that mental disorders are an expression of our deepest human nature is both important and timely, and one that can make a real difference to the perception, experience, and outcome of mental disorder.

Well done to Dr Neel Burton, it certainly makes an interesting read. Hot of the press it can be pre-ordered here.