I just learned about a new book by Allen Frances that Harper Collins has published. It is called Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life.
The Harper Collins ad for the book proclaims that it was written by “the most powerful psychiatrist in America” and that it is “a deeply fascinating and urgently important critique of the widespread medicalization of normality.”
The actual description of the book, when you find it on Amazon, reads as follows –
Anyone living a full, rich life experiences ups and downs, stresses, disappointments, sorrows, and setbacks. These challenges are a normal part of being human, and they should not be treated as psychiatric disease. However, today millions of people who are really no more that “worried well” are being diagnosed as having a mental disorder and are receiving unnecessary treatment. In Saving Normal, Allen Francis, one of the world’s most influential psychiatrists, warns that mislabeling everyday problems as mental illness has shocking implications for individuals and society: stigmatizing a healthy person as mentally ill leads to unnecessary, harmful medications, the narrowing horizons, misallocation of medical resources, and draining of the budgets of families and the nation. We also shift responsibility for our mental well-being away from our own naturally resilient and self-healing brains, which have kept us sane for hundreds of thousands of years, and into the hands of “Big Pharma,” who are reaping multi-billion-dollar profits.
Frances cautions that the new edition of the “bible of psychiatry,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5), will turn our current diagnostic inflation into hyperinflation by converting millions of “normal” people into “mental patients.” Alarmingly, in DSM-5, normal grief will become “Major Depressive Disorder”; the forgetting seen in old age is “Mild Neurocognitive Disorder”; temper tantrums are “Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder”; worrying about a medical illness is “Somatic Symptom Disorder”; gluttony is “Binge Eating Disorder”; and most of us will qualify for adult “Attention Deficit Disorder.” What’s more, all of these newly invented conditions will worsen the cruel paradox of the mental health industry: those who desperately need psychiatric help are left shamefully neglected, while the “worried well” are given the bulk of the treatment, often at their own detriment.
Masterfully charting the history of psychiatric fads throughout history, Frances argues that whenever we arbitrarily label another aspect of the human condition a “disease,” we further chip away at our human adaptability and diversity, dulling the full palette of what is normal and losing something fundamental of ourselves in the process. Saving Normal is a call to all of us to reclaim the full measure of our humanity.
It is a little bit frustrating for me (not a lot, but a little bit) that Harper Collins is pushing Saving Normal. I contacted the editor at Harper Collins when I had the Glasser biography manuscript halfway completed, a book that covers the same topics as Saving Normal, and was told that no one was interested in the life story of William Glasser. I disagreed, pointing out Glasser’s long and well-known career, the many books he had published, some of them huge sellers, the worldwide organization he had formed, the over 65,000 people that had participated in Glasser training workshops, and the many Glasser Quality Schools he had inspired throughout the United States.
I contacted this same editor when the manuscript was finished and he surprised me by saying he would love to read it, although he reminded me that he didn’t see Harper Collins getting involved. Still, I was a bit buoyed by his interest in the book. He ended up being very complimentary of the manuscript, emphasizing that it was very well written. I took it as a compliment when he expressed that he didn’t think it needed much editing. In spite of his belief that it was well written and interesting, he wished me luck in finding a publisher.
Since Harper Collins didn’t want to publish the book, or at least one of the editors didn’t want to publish the book, I have very much wanted to prove him wrong. I very much want a lot of people to be interested in Glasser’s story and the development of his ideas. Allen Frances, it turns out, is known for chairing the taskforce that produced the DSM-4, so his prominence is earned. Still, I see Glasser’s contributions to psychiatry, psychology, and education as so much more significant. That Harper Collins would jump on Frances’ bandwagon after so many years of working with Glasser, well, it’s just a bit frustrating.
It is good, though, that Saving Normal has been published. It is now one more voice reminding readers that the ups and downs of life, the challenges and disappointments, the sadness and grief, are not indicators of mental disease. It reminds us that human beings possess a resiliency capable of working through problems, rather than running to Big Pharma. It’s not a cheap book at $45, but I welcome it to the “discussion.” Did I mention that it’s presence is a tad frustrating?
The eBook version of William Glasser: Champion of Choice can be accessed at the following link –
The paperback version can be accessed at the following Amazon link –
For U.S. customers, get a signed copy of Champion of Choice for $20 + $6 (shipping). Send your check, along with any special instructions (e.g.- if the book is a gift), as well as your shipping address, and I will get the biography out to you right away.
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Get a signed copy of Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Teachers for $17.