Friday, August 7, 2015

Madness in Civilization by Andrew Scull

Mental disorders are and will remain for some time the least understood medical conditions. These days there are more than 900 different conditions that "qualifies" for mental illness.   

In this book, "Madness in Civilization", Andrew Scull has presented historical view about mental disorders. It appears that for past 3000 years we did not make much progress in understanding it. What has changed, however, is how they are treated. Today psycho-pharmacology dominates the field. It is less aggressive form of treatment compared to insulin shock or electroshock therapies (not to mention water boarding therapy developed in 19th century). However, even neurotransmitter based treatment protocols do not treat the condition but simply make mental patients to behave less abnormal (from normal people's point of view).  

In general, the authors heavily relies on Judeo-Christian point of view of mental illness as a condition inflicted by God as a punishment. This is however not universally accepted concept across civilization. For example, among Incas, mental patients were [are] viewed as blessed by God, not as punished [by God] individuals. 

In this book, the author tries to develop the concept that progress in civilization coincides with an increase in number of mental patients. However, the author failed to provide clear scientific basis for such concept. Even notion that simple living conditions of pre-industrial societies protected against development of dental disorders is simply too superficial to be taken seriously.

The book contains some valuable information, but not enough to recommend for a reading. In the end, it appears that the author believes that without understanding the biological basis for mental disorders we may never make a breakthrough in its treatment.

posted by David Usharauli


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