Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness

Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness

by Anne Harrington


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Mind Fixers tells the history of psychiatry’s quest to understand the biological basis of mental illness and asks where we need to go from here.

In Mind Fixers, Anne Harrington, author of The Cure Within, explores psychiatry’s repeatedly frustrated struggle to understand mental disorder in biomedical terms. She shows how the stalling of early twentieth century efforts in this direction allowed Freudians and social scientists to insist, with some justification, that they had better ways of analyzing and fixing minds.

But when the Freudians overreached, they drove psychiatry into a state of crisis that a new “biological revolution” was meant to alleviate. Harrington shows how little that biological revolution had to do with breakthroughs in science, and why the field has fallen into a state of crisis in our own time.

Mind Fixers makes clear that psychiatry’s waxing and waning biological enthusiasms have been shaped not just by developments in the clinic and lab, but also by a surprising range of social factors, including immigration, warfare, grassroots activism, and assumptions about race and gender. Government programs designed to empty the state mental hospitals, acrid rivalries between different factions in the field, industry profit mongering, consumerism, and an uncritical media have all contributed to the story as well.

In focusing particularly on the search for the biological roots of schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder, Harrington underscores the high human stakes for the millions of people who have sought medical answers for their mental suffering. This is not just a story about doctors and scientists, but about countless ordinary people and their loved ones.

A clear-eyed, evenhanded, and yet passionate tour de force, Mind Fixers recounts the past and present struggle to make mental illness a biological problem in order to lay the groundwork for creating a better future, both for those who suffer and for those whose job it is to care for them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393071221
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 29,854
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Anne Harrington is the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science and director of undergraduate studies at Harvard
University, as well as the author of three books, including
Reenchanted Science and The Cure Within. She lives in Cambridge,

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Our Biological Enthusiasms xi

Part I Doctors' Stories

Chapter 1 Betting on Anatomy 3

Chapter 2 Biology in Disarray 32

Chapter 3 A Fragile Freudian Triumph 74

Chapter 4 Crisis and Revolt 107

Part II Disease Stories

Chapter 5 Schizophrenia 139

Chapter 6 Depression 183

Chapter 7 Manic-Depression 217

Part III Unfinished Stories

Chapter 8 False Dawn 247

Afterthoughts 271

Notes 277

Guide to Further Reading 335

Index 345

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