An explosive critique of the psychiatric profession’s Bible, the DSM, arrives from Gary Greenberg, a noted author and critic of American psychiatry. Like Too Big to Fail’s look at Wall Street, The Book of Woe is an inside view of an institution on the brink of disaster—the American Psychiatric Association, which recently completed the fifth edition of the DSM, a book that guides the allocation of billions of taxpayer dollars for research and treatment and from which the APA expects to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Professional war broke out over the revision, and Greenberg, who is also a psychotherapist, spent two years embedded with both sides. The resulting account reveals the corruption and incompetence that infects the process by which the APA determines who is mentally ill, what diseases they have, and how they will be treated by doctors, educators, jurors and employers.
The DSM-5 is scheduled for release on May 14. The repercussions will be immediate. For example, it is very likely that after that date people diagnosed with Asperger's disorder will find that their disease—and their educational and insurance benefits—has been eliminated, that people grieving the loss of a loved one will be eligible for a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, and that tantrum-prone children will qualify for a new mental illness called Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. These and other revisions will be a boon to drug companies in search of new targets and to doctors and hospitals in search of new patients. Even more important, they will change the way we think about our own and others’ psychological suffering.
Greenberg witnessed the bruising, often vicious infighting that characterized the revision effort. He listened as the psychiatrists in charge of the DSM recited its fatal flaws, acknowledged that the disorders it lists are not real diseases, and blamed their troubles on a public who take the book too seriously. He watched as the APA protected its franchise with deceptions, evasions, and secrecy. He participated as a Collaborating Investigator in the clinical trials used to validate the revision and got a close look at the shaky science behind the new book. He talked with patients and parents, and with some of America 's best known psychiatrists—including the man who led the charge against the DSM-5, with whom he formed a strange and uneasy alliance. And he has returned from his odyssey with a riveting tale about a profession in crisis and the possible consequences for the rest of us.
Gary Greenberg is a practicing psychotherapist and the author of Manufacturing Depression and The Noble Lie. He has written about the intersection of science, politics, and ethics for Harper’s, The New Yorker, Wired, Discover, and Rolling Stone, among others, as well as Mother Jones, where he is a contributor. Dr. Greenberg lives with his family in Connecticut.
Interviewing Greenberg this evening is Steve Silberman, a writer for Wired and a blogger for the Public Library of Science. His stories have appeared in Time, the New Yorker, the MIT Technology Review, and many other national publications. His book NeuroTribes: Thinking Smarter About People Who Think Differently will be published in 2014.