Reviewed Books & Films

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June 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is There a Gender Bias in the Diagnosis of Mental Illness?

APA The premise of Jane Ussher's book The Madness of Women: Myth and Experience, as summarized by reviewer Harriette Kaley, is an indictment of the practice of medicalizing normal, human reactions to suffering and a denouncement of the ways sufferers are treated. For example, feelings of sadness or anger are considered symptoms of psychiatric syndromes, such as depression or borderline personality disorder, rather than viewed as appropriate and understandable responses to life difficulties. According to Kaley, the book's author offers strong critiques of what she calls the "psy professions," suggesting that they are themselves products of the socially constructed views of gender that permit women to be seen as weak, irrational, and otherwise inferior. As Kaley points out, this is a long-standing critique with roots in feminism and can be traced back at least 40 years.

Do you agree with Ussher's argument? Has there been any improvement in "over-medicalizing" women's reactions to stressful life circumstances in the past 40 years?

Read the Review
ReviewWho's Crazy? Madness in a Gendered World
By Harriette Kaley
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(21)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Craniofacial Dysmorphology

APA Reviewing The Origins of Schizophrenia (Brown and Patterson, 2012), Larry Davidson with the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health alludes to the discredited but once widely held belief in "schizophrenogenic mothers" and notes,

I might not have brought up this ugly chapter in the history of psychiatry (which, unfortunately, has several ugly chapters) had it not been for the ambitious title of the book and for several of the authors of this volume…writing at length about what they describe as "craniofacial dysmorphology" (p. 8). By this term, they are referring to what they believe they have discovered about abnormalities of the face and head of persons with psychosis. I cannot read these passages without being reminded of what we now consider to be the pseudoscience of phrenology that was popular in the 19th century and that made its way into the best psychiatric textbooks of the time.
Is there any evidence for the belief that one can make inferences about mental illness (or personality) on the basis of craniofacial features?

Read the Review
ReviewGene–Environment Interactions and Schizophrenia
By Larry Davidson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(22)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sex, Boundary Violations, and Psychiatry Legends

APA The provocative and entertaining film A Dangerous Method is a piece of historical fiction dipping into the early days of psychoanalysis and some of the interactions between Freud and Jung. The film also features the character Sabina, a patient with psychosis, who prior to becoming a physician and scholar was treated by both Freud and Jung. In the film, Jung has erotic, ecstatic, and sado-masochistic sex with Sabina. But as Eugene Taylor notes in his review of the film, "there is no evidence that any of the sexual scenes in the film actually ever happened."

Films are notorious for depicting psychologists and psychiatrists who cross boundaries, often of a melodramatic and sexual nature. But is there some truth to this boundary-crossing? Do most psychotherapists cross a "boundary" with patients at some point in their career? What percentage do you believe commit serious, substantive boundary violations such as sexual intercourse with a patient?

For those who have closely studied Freud, Jung, and/or psychoanalysis, how accurate is the portrayal of psychoanalysis and the characterization of these legendary psychiatrists in A Dangerous Method?

Read the Review
ReviewDid Jung Really Sleep With Sabina?
By Eugene Taylor
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(16)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Don't We Really Love the Police?

APA In his review of Hans Toch's book Cop Watch: Spectators, Social Media, and Police Reform, Robert Woody notes that there is skepticism about the police related to everything from internal corruption, to biases based on ethnicity, to excessive or inappropriate uses of force.

But, despite all of this, don't most citizens have a favorable view of the police? What is the effect of, for example, watching the many television shows that portray the police in a very favorable manner, shows such as Blue Bloods, Law & Order (in its multiple versions), CSI (also in its multiple versions), NCIS (both versions—original and Los Angeles), and Criminal Minds. These popular shows and others portray law enforcement officers as intelligent, motivated to protect and serve the public, resourceful, and self-sacrificing. They make law enforcement look good, and the popularity of these programs is evident given that they have been on for years and continue to have high ratings.

Additionally, while the local and national news broadcasts often show law enforcement at its worst (presenting videos showing police misbehavior), don't most of the public call them when there is trouble (e.g., when there is break-in) and appreciate it when they solve the problem (e.g., arresting the alleged perpetrator)?

There is no doubt that sometimes law enforcement receives negative (and deserved negative) publicity, but in most cases, don't people have a more favorable attitude toward law enforcement officers due to positive fictional images and their own favorable personal experiences?

Read the Review
ReviewMedia Influence on Law Enforcement
By Robert Henley Woody
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(22)

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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