My Top 10 Critical Psychology Books
We don’t need more psychiatrists handing out prescriptions, psychologists perpetuating pathology, researchers casting a wider and wider net of ‘mental illness’ to include infants and children, or anti-stigma campaigns that don’t acknowledge the nuance and complexity of discrimination in mental health. We need more whistle blowers and more critical thinkers.
Here is a list of books that have influenced my own thinking of mental health far beyond the status quo, as well as a nod to some very talented humans I get to work with who have impacted my knowledge in big ways - ENJOY!
“Here Rollo May discusses our loss of our personal identity in the contemporary world, the sources of our anxiety, the scope of psychotherapy, and the ultimate paradox of freedom and responsibility. Whether reflecting on war, psychology, or the ideas of existentialist thinkers such as Sartre and Kierkegaard, Dr. May everywhere enlarges our outlook on how people can develop creatively within the human predicament.”
“The most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture across the globe has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters, but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself. American-style depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia have begun to spread around the world like contagions, and the virus is us. Traveling from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka to Zanzibar to Japan, acclaimed journalist Ethan Watters witnesses firsthand how Western healers often steamroll indigenous expressions of mental health and madness and replace them with our own. In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been homogenizing the way the world goes mad.”
“We live in an era of depression, a condition that causes extensive suffering for individuals and families and saps our collective productivity. Yet there remains considerable confusion about how to understand depression. Depression: Integrating Science, Culture, and Humanities looks at the varied and multiple models through which depression is understood. Highlighting how depression is increasingly seen through models of biomedicine―and through biomedical catch-alls such as "broken brains" and "chemical imbalances"―psychiatrist and cultural studies scholar Bradley Lewis shows how depression is also understood through a variety of other contemporary models. Furthermore, Lewis explores the different ways that depression has been categorized, described, and experienced across history and across cultures.”
“A silent tragedy in the history of modern health care is happening right now in America, but no one is talking about it. We have been told a story of depression: that it is caused by a chemical imbalance and cured by a chemical fix—a prescription. More than 30 million of us take antidepressants, including one in seven women…Believe it or not: - In six decades, not a single study has proven that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. - The serotonin theory of depression is a myth that has been supported by the manipulation of data and an echo chamber of industry and media rhetoric. - Depression is not a genetic disease. It is an epigenetic syndrome. - Depression is often an inflammatory condition, a manifestation of irregularities in the body that can start far away from the brain and are not associated with the simplistic model of so-called 'chemical imbalances'. - Depression is an opportunity. It is a sign for us to stop and figure out what's causing our imbalance.”
“A reader and road map of bipolar worlds. This dense resource is built from the many stories of the amazing members of The Icarus Project. Assembled beautifully with jagged pieces of a collective experience, the lessons and scars create an atlas of alternative maps to the particular breed of madness that gets called bipolar, and the ways people are making it through. Traveling through subconscious and waking worlds, from hospital waiting rooms to collective house kitchens, from the desert to the supermarket, these pages chart some of the underground tunnels beneath the mainstream medical model of treatment and the pathologizing language that alienates so many people. Some of these maps will help you to navigate through the existing architecture of the mental health establishment; some of them might help you figure out for yourself where you stand in relation to the larger ecosystem of the earth and the people who inhabit it. A new and exciting model to study mental health with.”
“How do survivors of child abuse, bullying, chronic oppression and discrimination, and other developmental traumas adapt to such unimaginable situations? It is taken for granted that experiences such as hearing voices, altered states of consciousness, dissociative states, lack of trust, and intense emotions are inherently problematic. But what does the evidence actually show? And how much do we still need to learn?”
“Michel Foucault examines the archeology of madness in the West from 1500 to 1800 - from the late Middle Ages, when insanity was still considered part of everyday life and fools and lunatics walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, asylums were first built, and walls were erected between the "insane" and the rest of humanity.”
“Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.”
In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the government disability rolls because they have become newly disabled by mental illness, with this epidemic spreading most rapidly among our nation’s children. What is going on? This is the first book to look at the merits of psychiatric medications through the prism of long-term results. Are long-term recovery rates higher for medicated or unmedicated schizophrenia patients? Does taking an antidepressant decrease or increase the risk that a depressed person will become disabled by the disorder? Do bipolar patients fare better today than they did forty years ago, or much worse? When the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studied the long-term outcomes of children with ADHD, did they determine that stimulants provide any benefit?”
“Why are many of the most successful people plagued by feelings of emptiness and alienation? This wise and profound book has provided millions of readers with an answer--and has helped them to apply it to their own lives. Far too many of us had to learn as children to hide our own feelings, needs, and memories skillfully in order to meet our parents' expectations and win their "love." Alice Miller writes, "When I used the word 'gifted' in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb.... Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived." But merely surviving is not enough. The Drama of the Gifted Child helps us to reclaim our life by discovering our own crucial needs and our own truth”