PSYCHIATRY is widely considered to be a success, able to treat mental illness using drugs to correct chemical imbalances in the brain. Yet, since the advent of psychiatric drugs, rates of mental illness have shot up and the supposed imbalances, thought to be the cause of mental illness, have been shown not to exist.
Whitaker wants us to believe psychiatry itself is to blame, and that scientific incompetence and corrupting self-interest have prevented reliable assessments of mental disorders and treatments alike. The author's belief that we could have got it so wrong seems far-fetched.
Up close, however, his arguments are worryingly sane and consistently based on evidence. They amount to a provocative yet reasonable thesis, one whose astonishing intellectual punch is delivered with the gripping vitality of a novel.
Whitaker manages to be damning while remaining stubbornly optimistic in this enthralling and frighteningly persuasive book.