Shrunk

How helpful are psychiatric diagnoses and the treatments they dictate to real people in their real lives?  How much do they help us in our love and work?

A degree of skepticism is in order regarding psychiatry’s diagnoses and grasp of human nature.  Articles raising this concern have appeared in the NY Times: See Nugent’s “I had Asperger Syndrome – Briefly” (January 31, 2012); Wallis’s “On Aspergers, A Vanishing Diagnosis” (November 2, 2009); and Louis Menand’s piece in the New Yorker, “Head Case – Can Psychiatry Be A Science” (March 1, 2010). In “The reliability of Psychiatric Diagnosis” by Phillip Ash, fifty-two mental patients were examined by three well-known psychiatrists, all three psychiatrists reached the same diagnosis only 20% of the time, and two were in agreement less than half the time.

Are diagnosis, treatment, cure, and life itself confused in the way psychiatry thinks about them? Treatments aren’t always cures. Can diagnoses reduce us from whole human beings to “target symptoms?” What’sgoing on inside us, the workings of the heart and mind, are not an exact science. Science helps, but attempts to make our limited understanding more than it is can lead to pseudo science. Still, our inner lives are worlds worth exploring – an exploration that never loses its value. The means of exploration include not just science, but talk, essays, poetry, novels .  .  . or you could just read Shrunk.

 

Comments

  1. Hi Christopher, I loved your book. What a terrific read, so funny. I live in the Boston area and I almost feel I know these people. Psychiatrists have always been a tad intimidating for me. This book paints them as real people with real problems, it’s a breath of fresh air!
    Can’t wait to read more from you,
    Tasso

  2. I live in the Boston area, and so many of the characters in your novel seemed eerily familiar. Are they? If this is a roman à clef, I’m sure you won’t reveal the key, but I’d love to know in general how much you felt you needed to exaggerate to create a good story.

  3. I haven’t finished Shrunk yet but am curious to see how it plays out. I can’t help but feel from what I’ve read that the need for treatment for the very people in Hogart’s field is more widespread than any character in the novel would admit. How does Hogart feel about this? Would his colleagues agree? How can therapists avoid letting dire personal troubles interfere with the beacon-like status with which patients tend to associate them?

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