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This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Mary Lamb, sister of Charles, who in the throes of a nervous breakdown turned o This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Mary Lamb, sister of Charles, who in the throes of a nervous breakdown turned on her mother with a kitchen knife, to Freud, Jung, and Lacan, who developed the new women-centered therapies, Lisa Appignanesi’s research traces how more and more of the inner lives and emotions of women have become a matter for medics and therapists. Here too is the story of how over the years symptoms and diagnoses have developed together to create fashions in illness and how treatments have succeeded or sometimes failed. Mad, Bad, and Sad takes us on a fascinating journey through the fragile, extraordinary human mind.


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This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Mary Lamb, sister of Charles, who in the throes of a nervous breakdown turned o This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Mary Lamb, sister of Charles, who in the throes of a nervous breakdown turned on her mother with a kitchen knife, to Freud, Jung, and Lacan, who developed the new women-centered therapies, Lisa Appignanesi’s research traces how more and more of the inner lives and emotions of women have become a matter for medics and therapists. Here too is the story of how over the years symptoms and diagnoses have developed together to create fashions in illness and how treatments have succeeded or sometimes failed. Mad, Bad, and Sad takes us on a fascinating journey through the fragile, extraordinary human mind.

30 review for Mad, Bad, and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cherie Rhodes

    I'm so beyond furious, it's likely best if I wait to review this novel, but if I hope to get some restful sleep, I have to vent. The last 100, definitely last 50 pages, were interminable, scathing judgements by a writer who is clearly a sensationalist in journalism who I would hazard to say has little to no real life experience with mental illness. As a fellow human being, I'm glad for her-I wouldn't wish mental illness on my worst enemies. But as a perceived objective reporter, she has no busin I'm so beyond furious, it's likely best if I wait to review this novel, but if I hope to get some restful sleep, I have to vent. The last 100, definitely last 50 pages, were interminable, scathing judgements by a writer who is clearly a sensationalist in journalism who I would hazard to say has little to no real life experience with mental illness. As a fellow human being, I'm glad for her-I wouldn't wish mental illness on my worst enemies. But as a perceived objective reporter, she has no business throwing in opinions at the end of paragraphs of history and assumed fact. I did a lot of research on the subjects and topics discussed, which is part of the reason I took months to finish, so I believe the facts stated as facts were accurate but her conclusions were too basic and one-sided. I wondered if I'd read the same section her comments followed at times. I also grew tired of her oversimplification and portrayal of our modern definition and treatments. Schizophrenia was once associated with possession. We learned and redefined. What was affectionately known as "shell shock" is now a recognized disease resulting from horrendous trauma. No, it's not perfect. People and their illnesses don't fit neatly into boxes, but without some stratification and classification, we put everyone in one giant box, understanding and helping no one. As a soon-to-be pharmacist and longtime sufferer of mental illness myself, I know Big Pharma is evil. I know various diagnoses have periods where they garner more attention, almost like a fashion fad. I also know, as much as I hate to depend on a chalky tablet no bigger than my fingernail that my life is vastly improved because someone started with Prozac. That doesn't make me or anyone else on a psych med weak or defective. There's no shame taking insulin for diabetes. Taking responsibility for your own health and wellness means every part, not just numbers that come from blood tests. I'm a huge advocate of therapy. I've seen at least a dozen therapists of some sort since early childhood. I've been nearly every week for the past 8 months. Is having someone to talk to helpful, regardless of the subject or method? Of course. We are social creatures. Does the placebo effect exist? Without a doubt. But that's no reason to discredit therapy and medication entirely. Maybe we are trying in vain to create a utopia free of all hardship and pain, but maybe we're recognizing that what was once thought of as "part of the human condition" doesn't have to be. If we insist on prolonging our lives with education and modern medicine, shouldn't we also look at the equally, if not more important, means to create meaning and quality as well? The deeper I delved, the less credible the author seemed and as I finally read the last 4 pages I have been avoiding for a solid week, I felt judged and stigmatized. Ms. A may be well known for her didactic experiences with the histories of ill women and their providers, but at the end of almost 500 pages, I have to say, this was less historical and more editorial. She simply didn't know what she was talking about.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Hmm, this is a patchwork of a book that only follows through on what it promises in the most tangential of fashions. Part of the problem is that Appignanesi is trying very hard to shoe-horn in many related but separate issues into a single linear history: the development of psychiatry; the changing constructions and representations of gender, especially femininity; and mini biographies of all kinds of people from women labelled as 'mad, bad or sad' (e.g. Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Marilyn Mon Hmm, this is a patchwork of a book that only follows through on what it promises in the most tangential of fashions. Part of the problem is that Appignanesi is trying very hard to shoe-horn in many related but separate issues into a single linear history: the development of psychiatry; the changing constructions and representations of gender, especially femininity; and mini biographies of all kinds of people from women labelled as 'mad, bad or sad' (e.g. Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Marilyn Monroe) to doctors and psychiatrists from the little-known to the canonical such as Freud and Lacan. Taken all together it becomes somewhat chaotic. It's also noticeable that while the start (from about the French Revolution) is referenced and 'historical', as the text goes on it starts to become more subjective opinion. Appignanesi discusses the growth of modern pathologies such as anorexia and bulimia; and appears somewhat awkward when writing on the exposure of historical rape, sex abuse and related traumatic memories from the mid-1980s. I'm not sure this is her intention, but she almost seems to be saying that a kind of glamorisation of victimisation has taken hold with the later cases, a position with which I felt very uncomfortable. The one message that is threaded through the book is the extent to which 'madness' is culturally defined and historicised (as are most other ideas): 'not conforming to a norm risks the label of deviance or madness, and is sometimes attended by confinement' (p.7) - that those so often deemed to be rejecting or refusing a 'norm', usually defined by and in the service of a patriarchal system and, thus, confined are - no big surprise here - women. 'Madness', the book claims, is often as much a function of power hierarchies and capitalist interests (the diet industry, Big Pharma, the role of everyday therapy and the self-help industry) as it may be of mental health. Ultimately, Appignanesi is not against whatever help people may need but there's a slightly cynical soap-box feel to the last chapters that didn't sit well with me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize, which is about right. It's clearly a Serious Work intended for that sort of prize, but it's so oddly bloodless and unengaging that it doesn't deserve to go further. Appignanesi seems more interested in the therapists, male and female, than the patients, none of whom get much of a look-in, despite being the ostensible subject of the book. There is no attempt to look at the experience of madness even when she is discussing women who wrote extensively about Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize, which is about right. It's clearly a Serious Work intended for that sort of prize, but it's so oddly bloodless and unengaging that it doesn't deserve to go further. Appignanesi seems more interested in the therapists, male and female, than the patients, none of whom get much of a look-in, despite being the ostensible subject of the book. There is no attempt to look at the experience of madness even when she is discussing women who wrote extensively about it (Virginia Woolf, for god's sake!). Women's madness is theorised without being actualised, and that means that it feels to me like it lacks humanity. I would have liked to go into the minds of the women receiving treatment, and get some sense of what happened to them. I would have liked to hear Appignanesi talk about what the women in her case studies actually did and said and might have felt; whether the actual or perceived dysfunctions had any basis or commonality despite the fashions in treatment; about what in life might have brought them to their symptoms or treatments. I wanted to enjoy this. I want to find a book that talks satisfyingly about women in mental health systems over time. This is not that book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Because the UK Higher Education sector is chronically dysfunctional, I am on strike again for the third time in two years. Last time, my reading strategy was to find obscure books in the National Library of Scotland. This time, I'm trying to read books that kind people lent to me over the past few years but I've yet to read. This is the first of them. Not a light book, given the topic of women's mental illness and treatment over the past 200 years, yet very interesting indeed. Appignanesi demons Because the UK Higher Education sector is chronically dysfunctional, I am on strike again for the third time in two years. Last time, my reading strategy was to find obscure books in the National Library of Scotland. This time, I'm trying to read books that kind people lent to me over the past few years but I've yet to read. This is the first of them. Not a light book, given the topic of women's mental illness and treatment over the past 200 years, yet very interesting indeed. Appignanesi demonstrates how the conceptualisation of mental illness, particularly but not exclusively in women, has changed repeatedly and significantly. She draws upon medical texts, law, and research, while also presenting individual case studies of women who exemplify the mental health struggles of their day. These case studies are handled with sensitivity, with the result that they've moving to read. I hadn't previously realised the suffering that Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe went through. Appignanesi shows very skilfully that the categories of mental illness are socially constructed and their meanings change substantially over time. As in Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, there is also a strong theme of mental distress having historically, spatially, and culturally specific manifestations. 'Mad, Bad, and Sad' is centred upon Europe and US, so this is mainly included as changes in symptoms and diagnoses over time. Since different historical moments and cultures place different pressures on people, as well as providing different moral frameworks and measures for self-soothing, this changeability is hardly surprising. One commonality is perhaps that what is considered mental illness consists largely of unexplained physical symptoms. Yet I can't help feeling that this adds further complexity to already fraught popular perceptions of mental illness. It would be simpler and more reassuring to believe that it's all just imbalances in the brain chemicals that a pill can fix. Unfortunately the former does not lead to the latter, as what drugs there are to treat mental illness are not always effective and how they work remains largely mysterious. Given that the advent of remotely efficacious medicines for mental illness is relatively recent, these are largely dealt with in the final chapter. Earlier sections consider the conditions of women in asylums over the centuries and recount the advent of psychotherapy in great detail. Appignanesi manages to be remarkably balanced regarding Freud, explaining the revolutionary and progressive impacts of his work without minimising the problems with and misuse of it. I was fascinated to learn about the pioneering female psychotherapists and changing views of what symptoms could be alleviated by psychoanalysis. There is also a great deal of material about how motherhood and mental health have been linked, for example the successive fashions for blaming women for not being warm and loving enough, then too warm and loving. Several latter chapters consider how the hippy and feminist movements critiqued psychology, the legacy of which I've noticed anecdotally in my family . Given personal difficulties with food, I found the chapter on eating disorders hardest to read. This considered how the saturation of popular culture with imagery of idealised thinness promoted eating disorders as a means of expressing anguish. I found Appignanesi's writing style readable and impressively measured, while the content was extremely thought-provoking. I put off reading the book after being lent it on the justified expectation that it would be upsetting in parts, however it was entirely worth persisting with and more accessible than I anticipated. I was left thinking about the different dimensions of mental illness: biology, experience of abuse and trauma, and (gendered) social pressures, and how they relate to available treatments. Appignanesi is fairly critical of all currently available (not to mention of the DSM), noting the choice to prescribe Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or antidepressants is most likely to be based on cost. Regarding CBT, I think the impact of the therapist being a sympathetic person who wants to understand the nature of the problem and help may be underestimated. They acknowledge suffering and suggest small changes to mitigate it. I suspect that this acknowledgement and sympathy sometimes has more significant impact than the formal techniques of mindfulness and so on. It was a wise choice, I think, to centre the book both on female sufferers of mental illness and those who have sought to treat them. The result is a nuanced and richly rewarding read that concludes with this thoughtful comment: What is clear is that as we have moved through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, an ever wider set of behaviours and emotions have become 'symptomatic' and fallen under the aegis of the mind doctors. A vast range of eccentricities or discomforts that seem too hard to bear shape cases for treatment. But if what is understood as illness grows, symptoms have been attributed to an ever narrowing set of 'chemical' factors. It is as if the greater the terrain of possible malaise, the more 'scientifically' and organically precise we would want the cause and cure to be. There is a contradiction here, which may serve a drug industry rather better than it serves those who have become designated as patients or indeed the social sphere as a whole. Our times may need 'cures' that are broader and other than those that can be found in therapy alone, whether of the talking or pharmaceutical kind.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I borrowed this to use in my MA dissertation, and was rewarded with an absolutely wonderful, engrossing, and well-researched read. I love the way in which Appignanesi writes, and this is going to be a go-to book for me for many years to come. Just wonderful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    How do we assess madness, that particularly malleable condition? In tracing its histories, this book understands the complex and intractable nature of madness, its often seeming attachment to socially oppressive causes, but just as frequently, its astonishing inexplicability. It looks across two centuries of a growing group of professionals of mind doctors: alienists, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists; neurologists, pathologists, neuroscientists, psychopharmacolog How do we assess madness, that particularly malleable condition? In tracing its histories, this book understands the complex and intractable nature of madness, its often seeming attachment to socially oppressive causes, but just as frequently, its astonishing inexplicability. It looks across two centuries of a growing group of professionals of mind doctors: alienists, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists; neurologists, pathologists, neuroscientists, psychopharmacologists. Basically, we see that “diagnosis” is not a simple act of discovery and labelling. Diagnosis, treatment, and illnesses themselves are intimately bound up with discourses of gender, race, class, and the body. Appignanesi does neglect an intersectional analysis in the ambition of her argument that women have had a particular gendered relationship with madness. The first few chapters on the birth of mental health professions, including the fascinating story of Mary Lamb, and the shifting ideologies regarding the human mind, are the best. The use of famous women’s lives and writings, such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Marilyn Monroe work as case studies of both depth and breadth. Her focus on sweeping historical paradigms and shifts also make this an ideal introduction to discourses of madness in the West. But Appignanesi’s ethical compass often veers well off-course, her tone slipping into flippancy at some of the most painful (for the Mad) moments. Her efforts to avoid accusations of “political correctness” also date the latter chapters and removes authorial compassion for the Mad subjects of these last few decades. Her treatment of sexual assault and child abuse is astonishingly unethical, which tends to reify conservative psychiatry that has done much harm to survivors. So eager is she not to come across as "too feminist" that she completely misunderstands consent, power and abuse, which often generate much of the distress we know as madness.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Appignanesi offers a detailed and critical review of the last two centuries of "mind-doctoring", from alienism to physiognomy to psychoanalysis to psychiatry. However, one gets the sense that the loose focus on women came only after the book was written, more as a suggestion from her editor to pare the tome down, rather than being the author's incipient specialization. Throughout the entirety of the book, Appignanesi re-addresses the topic of womanhood just at the point when the reader double-ch Appignanesi offers a detailed and critical review of the last two centuries of "mind-doctoring", from alienism to physiognomy to psychoanalysis to psychiatry. However, one gets the sense that the loose focus on women came only after the book was written, more as a suggestion from her editor to pare the tome down, rather than being the author's incipient specialization. Throughout the entirety of the book, Appignanesi re-addresses the topic of womanhood just at the point when the reader double-checks the title page to make sure she hasn't mistakenly picked up a textbook on the history of Western psychology. Furthermore, Appignanesi really seems to lack a kind of interest in--maybe even fondness for--women: she seems skeptical of their historical role as real victims of the Medical Man, and truly seems to blame the women's movement for the late 20th century's flaws in psychotherapy. One comes away from the book, though, with a very clear and deep understanding of the "where are we going and where have we been" of Western psychology---which is a great thing if you're interested---even if it is quite obviously written by an unabashed advocate of psychoanalysis. (Appignaneis isn't merely a Freud fan, she actually makes the claim that, despite scientific data to the contrary, Freudian analysis is the one true way to effect lasting improvement upon the unquiet mind.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    AJ LeBlanc

    I didn't finish this one. It was too much textbook and long case study for me to get excited about. I read Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation about a year ago and was hoping this would be the same type of book. I was looking for information on how the mental health profession has developed and the role women patients played in it. This book might have gotten there, but I couldn't get my brain where it needed to be to really sit down with the material and read. I didn't finish this one. It was too much textbook and long case study for me to get excited about. I read Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation about a year ago and was hoping this would be the same type of book. I was looking for information on how the mental health profession has developed and the role women patients played in it. This book might have gotten there, but I couldn't get my brain where it needed to be to really sit down with the material and read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kate F

    This is a big book about a huge subject. It intrigued me in the book shop and has largely kept my interest throughout. It could perhaps have been reduced by about 25% in length without any loss of interest - indeed it would have benefited from a litlle pruning. The case histories that she used were particularly interesting. I found the sections about the various amendments to the diagnostic manuals for mental health rather heavy going and could quite happily have skipped those bits had I not tho This is a big book about a huge subject. It intrigued me in the book shop and has largely kept my interest throughout. It could perhaps have been reduced by about 25% in length without any loss of interest - indeed it would have benefited from a litlle pruning. The case histories that she used were particularly interesting. I found the sections about the various amendments to the diagnostic manuals for mental health rather heavy going and could quite happily have skipped those bits had I not thought I might miss something interesting in doing so. Focussing on women's mental health and treatment over the last 200 years was an interesting premise and largely successful. I wonder what the likes of Mary Lamb and Henriette Cornier would have made of today's world of instant diagnosis and treatment. Would they have been diagnosed before they were able to commit their horrible crimes? Would Mary have been amazed at the proliferation of different disorders that have been identified and for which a pill or therapy has been devised? Or would she have thought that perhaps the world itself had gone a little mad in trying to classify every fear/disappointment/hurt feeling as a symptom of a wider illness. I declare a personal interest here. I have sought help for mental problems. After the suicide of my grandmother I suffered through a terrible black pit of despair that included a half hearted suicide attempt without any drugs or treatment except a couple of sessions with the community psychiatric nurse and came out the other side feeling stronger and wiser. I have taken Prozac, in my case for hormone related psychological problems and it gave me my life back at a time when I thought I would never feel normal again and I still take an anti-depressant but not for any mental health issue but to keep severe, frequent migraine under control. . This book, or at least a version of it, should be read by all young people, particularly young women, and all those people who believe they are suffering from some of the modern ills that obsess them so that they can see that they may in fact be being manipulated by a media obsessed with image and big pharma that claims to have all the answers in a handy capsule. For those who are truly suffering from depression, bi polar, schizophrenia, anorexia etc I am thankful that treatments seem to have improved over the years and hope that they continue to improve to help them. I hope that anyone living with these conditions receives the care and attention from an enlightened and sympathetic medical profession that they need and I hope that they are never left to suffer alone. To all the others, I say "get a grip and count your blessings".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    Appignanesi chronicles the history of mental illness and women from the time when mental illness first became thought of as something that actually could be treated. At first, hospitals for the mentally ill were nothing more than storage facilities to keep the patient out of the families hair. Gradually, however, doctors came to feel that treatments, from isolation rooms to Freud’s ‘talking cure’ to ECT to all the assorted drugs, old and new. There have always been more female mental patients th Appignanesi chronicles the history of mental illness and women from the time when mental illness first became thought of as something that actually could be treated. At first, hospitals for the mentally ill were nothing more than storage facilities to keep the patient out of the families hair. Gradually, however, doctors came to feel that treatments, from isolation rooms to Freud’s ‘talking cure’ to ECT to all the assorted drugs, old and new. There have always been more female mental patients than male, and they have been treated differently most of the time. The author intersperses the history of the treatment of mental illness with biographies of both famous patients and therapists, along with some chapters that focus ‘trends’ in mental illness. I say trends for lack of a better word; I speak of the way an illness is discovered and defined and then is what therapists concentrate of – wandering uteri, cold mothering, repressed memories, giving everyone SSRIs. While the material is all interesting, this approach seems scattered and sometimes hard to follow. I had the feeling that the author could have made two books out of this one. One thing is clear: how mental illness in women is perceived and treated is very much dependant on the sociology of their time. At first, they were told to stay away from reading and learning- something male patients of the time were not told. At another time, they received a great deal of talk therapy. Now they are given pills to cure it all, just as the male patients are.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    It was interesting, but really could have been put together in a more compelling manner. Also - a book about women, but by volume it sure seemed to be very about men instead. If this was some sort of meta-message, it was not effective.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    There are many things wrong with this book, but my biggest criticism is that I can't trust what the author wrote. After noticing some outright false statements that might seem inconsequential in their importance, the fact that there was clearly no fact checking and the author seems to just assume that what she remembers off the top of her head is true, also means that I can't really trust anything that she has written to be true. I will come back to this and get to the details of it at the end o There are many things wrong with this book, but my biggest criticism is that I can't trust what the author wrote. After noticing some outright false statements that might seem inconsequential in their importance, the fact that there was clearly no fact checking and the author seems to just assume that what she remembers off the top of her head is true, also means that I can't really trust anything that she has written to be true. I will come back to this and get to the details of it at the end of my review. This book is not really about women with mental illness, as you would assume based on the fact that is what it purports itself to be. She spends more time discussing the doctors and their backgrounds than actually discussing the women. At one point, she actually gives the address of the doctor that Marilyn Monroe was referred to, for no logical reason I can figure. Why would anyone reading this need to know the exact address at the time of a psychoanalyst from more half a century ago?? She also states in the introduction that she had "deliberately not steered away from the famous cases." Okay, fair enough, I would expect some well known cases to be discussed. Unfortunately, those are the ONLY cases discussed in any type of detail. This was a huge disappointment, and also a giant error, because you can't write a history of 'women and the mind doctors', without actually representing what the majority of women would have experienced, which is a far cry from what the famous and wealthy experienced. I expected some actual first hand research done by the author, not the regurgitated research of the most well known doctors of the time about a few well known cases. When it comes to the actual writing, although it was decent at times, I found it difficult to get through at others because quite often her sentences ramble on and are so convoluted that they have to be read three or four times to understand what she was trying to say. Usually nothing that required being stated in a single sentence the size of a paragraph, when it could have been more easily understood if it had been presented in a few concise sentences instead. She often seems to lose focus on what she is supposed to be writing about. She is also obsessed with the word 'nomenclature', and to a less extent the phrase 'rise and rise'. The word nomenclature is used in this book more times that I have ever read or heard cumulatively in the nearly 40 years of my life prior to reading this book. The lack of fact checking and run on sentences were not the only sign of a bad editor. I can only speak of my copy which is from the first run of publication, but there were missing periods in the text, sometimes other missing characters and letters, and all of the references were left with the placeholder of "(see page 000)". Many statements lack any footnote where there should be one, and considering her demonstrated problem with facts, means viewing most of what is written with some skepticism as to it's reliability, without being able to reference where the information came from. She seems very dismissive of mental illness, and clearly has no real understanding of it despite her extensive research. At one point she scoffs at the criteria for a diagnosis as basically being descriptive of every single teenager ever, apparently the nuance of "inappropriate sexual behaviour" vs regular teenage hornyness propelled by raging hormones is completely lost on her. Her dismissiveness with regards to sexual assault and child abuse were most aggravating. She makes comments insinuating that the rise in women's confessions of their experiences with sexual assault & reports of their violations during women's liberation were because it became a 'fad' to be a victim/survivor and women want to fit in with other women and be part of the group. She seems to be of the impression that child abuse - both physical and sexual - are a 'class' issue, aka a poor person's issue, which is absurd. Abuse happens in wealthy homes too, it's just a lot easier for those cases to hide behind a facade of normalcy and secrecy. She's extremely dismissive of eating disorders, and seems to think they are nothing but a fad as well that caught on only because we started talking about eating disorders, never putting together that the rise in eating disorders came about when media started entering the houses by way of TV, during the rise in popularity of glossy colour magazines often carrying photos of fashion models, when women became constantly bombarded by images that were sold as the ideal of beauty and that were virtually impossible for the average woman to achieve. Also so very nice of her to shame Calista Flockhart and Victoria Beckham specifically by name. So, to get back to the false and/or misleading statements, - as I said, I realize that most of them seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of what was being said, but if she is wrong about these 'facts' or statements, it's hard to trust her other statements. I do wish I'd written them all down, as I'm sure I've forgotten a few, but some that I can remember: - She states that of Queen Anne's multiple pregnancies, none of the children lived past the age of 2, which is false, as she had a son that lived to the age of 11. - She mentions a bunch of fiction describing women's mental illness, and includes in that list Susanna Kaysen's 'Girl, Interrupted', which is a memoir, not fiction. - She claims that anorexia results in twelve times more deaths in the 18-25 year old female population than any other single cause, which is complete baloney. Anorexia does not kill off more women in that age group than any other cause, never mind *12 times* as many deaths as any other single cause. That is an absolutely ridiculous claim and I could not find any data that would back that up, or give anyone that impression at all. Accidents are the leading cause of death in women of that age group, not really confusable with eating disorders. I have no clue where she got that ridiculous idea and, surprise surprise!, it's one of those places where there is no end note giving a source that is most sorely needed when providing those kind of statistics. - I admit this one is a bit petty of an observation all things considered, but at one point she is talking about one of the women being molested as a child, and refers to the perpetrator as being her step brother, but then goes on to state it was her mother's child from a first marriage. That is not her step brother, that is her half brother, and when discussing molestation it is the difference between violation by a non-blood relative and incest, which makes it an important distinction. - This one might not be false so much as misleading: She states that Clerambault "staged his own murder", which I found such a fascinating tidbit that I went looking for more information about how he tried to make his suicide look like a murder, and if he was trying to frame a particular person. I was really confused when I couldn't find any information about it, only to realize that it was likely just a bad attempt to poetically say "suicide". It might not have been intentionally misleading, but "staging his own murder" could only really have two logical meanings: that he faked his own death, or (the only one that made sense in this situation) that he staged his suicide to look like a murder. A serious book of such a nature has no place for unclear, poetic turns of phrase. - And, the final one, is truly the one that made me drop the book from 2 stars down to 1, and basically made anything else she wrote in the book questionable as to the veracity. While discussing self harm, she wrote: "'I cut myself to get the pain out,' Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the grunge band Nirvana, famously said before committing suicide." ONLY HE NEVER SAID SUCH A THING, not even close or paraphrased, not at all, never mind having said it 'famously' before he committed suicide. This is not a Kurt Cobain quote, and in fact appears to not be a quote by ANYONE, at least not that exact sentence. I know because as a fan, I immediately thought 'Huh? That doesn't sound like Kurt Cobain at all', and checked. I can't attribute that exact quote to anyone. I do know that Kurt Cobain was not a cutter or known for self-harm of that manner, and the fact that she would include what is supposed to be an actual quote in the text and never bother to double check the veracity - or even just the exact wording - of it at all just blew my mind. The fact that she claims he famously said it just made it that more ridiculous. I'm assuming she actually thinks that is true, that she wasn't purposely trying to mislead people, but that begs the question: what else did she write in the book that she thinks she remembers correctly but that is just blatantly untrue?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tiziana

    This book uncovers the history of psychiatry through the personal lives, studies and achievements of the principal mind doctors whose main focus was to understand and treat women and who left a mark in this medical area. The narrative goes on in a more-or-less chronological manner, starting from the late 18th century and traversing the main countries (Britain, France, Austria, USA) in which psychiatry started to evolve. It starts from the atrocious conditions in European asylums and Pinel's icon This book uncovers the history of psychiatry through the personal lives, studies and achievements of the principal mind doctors whose main focus was to understand and treat women and who left a mark in this medical area. The narrative goes on in a more-or-less chronological manner, starting from the late 18th century and traversing the main countries (Britain, France, Austria, USA) in which psychiatry started to evolve. It starts from the atrocious conditions in European asylums and Pinel's iconic order to release women from chains, going on to the diagnosing of new disorders and the later corrections of some diagnoses, to the rise to international fame of Freudian psychoanalysis and its subsequent repudiation, to the final advancement of pharmacological and therapeutic treatment. It is a fairly unchallenging book, easy to read and understand, even though going through 500 pages was tough and my slow progression through it almost drove me mad, bad and sad (eheh, can't avoid inserting a pun). It was the second half that made me slow down; perhaps because of the lack of interesting case histories or maybe because the too many references to Freud annoyed me as much as Freud's own ideas which I still can't properly understand. Anyhow, it is the case studies that are definitely engaging and that make for a riveting read - from famous stories like those of Virginia Woolf, Zelda Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe (thus reviving the ever so popular link between madness and creativity/talent/beauty) to less notorious cases that nevertheless helped their doctors to new discoveries. I will always remember the stories of Mary Lamb and Alice James with whom I empathised a lot, while I'm still fascinated by the horrifying cases of Henriette Cornier and the Papin sisters (them French ladies). I dare say that if the book focused more on the women and their histories, I would have enjoyed it better, however that wasn't the point of this particular book. The developments in the psychiatric field are obviously related to whatever socio-political situation there was in particular periods and therefore, the progress in the understanding and treatment of female patients were naturally tied to the fight for women's rights and liberation in a rampant patriarchal world. What I find fascinating and saddening at the same time is that, despite an evident improvement in the way psychiatrists understood women's mental conditions by actually listening to them, most of the mind doctors and their treatments still remained highly misogynistic - only a very few were truly feminist and for the most part, women remained victims of what society made of their gender. Things may have become much better, at least when it comes to mental health & treatment, but it inevitably makes me think about whether things have really changed. The answer can be found when seeing the glamourisation of drug-taking and 'mad' women in the media (especially celebrities), the way the same media treats female criminals (whether they're mad or bad) as 'foxy' and 'vamp', and the way terms like 'mad' and 'hysterical' are still easily flung at women who may just be vocal about their rights. The last chapter and epilogue have also made me ponder about what Appignanesi was trying to say. While I second her preoccupation about the excess categorisation of mental conditions with its possibility of misdiagnosing and risk in self-diagnosing, I found her a little exaggerated when it comes to the condemnation of pill-prescriptions, even though her conclusion was then a bit neutral. After all, this is still a delicate issue: a combination of therapy and medication seems ideal but each case has to be studied and understood individually because in the end (quoting from the Epilogue) "we are not simple creatures".

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sylvie Garcia

    I really enjoyed the historical examples of the treatment of women with mental health problems, and the clear way Appignanesi breaks down theories and treatments. As the book progressed, I felt concerned that the 'mental health biographies' of modern figures were almost salacious: I felt this most strongly with the passages concerning Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe. I also felt uncomfortable with some aspects of Appignanesi's conclusions (where modern medication and therapies do more to create I really enjoyed the historical examples of the treatment of women with mental health problems, and the clear way Appignanesi breaks down theories and treatments. As the book progressed, I felt concerned that the 'mental health biographies' of modern figures were almost salacious: I felt this most strongly with the passages concerning Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe. I also felt uncomfortable with some aspects of Appignanesi's conclusions (where modern medication and therapies do more to create patients than help them, and in fact women would do better if they were untreated), but can accept that perhaps I'm having difficulty processing this idea objectively. I also find it a shame that the book doesn't attempt any analysis of non-heterosexual women (surely there's plenty to be said about the shift of thinking about homosexuality as criminal and/or disordered to it being removed as a condition from the DSM) and indeed any analysis of women who were not born in biologically female bodies and transgender men. Given how the mental health of trans people is treated in a very particular way, this seems like a fruitful direction for a book that seeks to challenge the social and political constructs around femaleness and mental illness. Occasionally you find that it's the wrong time in your life to read a particular book, and for me this is an example of this. I would like to revisit this book eventually, as perhaps my rating and thoughts aren't representative of the author's arguments. It certainly doesn't seem fair given the colossal amount of research clearly undertaken for this work.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kate Gould

    Possession, love, sex (too much or too little), religion, abuse, grief, and heredity, to name a few – the causes of women’s madness are myriad. Taking the most consistent bashing as cause by the “psy” professions is mothers. No surprise there: when she hasn’t been accused of rendering sons unfit for military service by over-nurturing them, she’s been driving daughters to anorexia with inattention. Appignanesi’s account takes in obscure and well-known patients and their doctors. It both affirms c Possession, love, sex (too much or too little), religion, abuse, grief, and heredity, to name a few – the causes of women’s madness are myriad. Taking the most consistent bashing as cause by the “psy” professions is mothers. No surprise there: when she hasn’t been accused of rendering sons unfit for military service by over-nurturing them, she’s been driving daughters to anorexia with inattention. Appignanesi’s account takes in obscure and well-known patients and their doctors. It both affirms common perceptions of the field and surprises; taking mental illness out of hospitals, off couches, and into our everyday lives – from popular malaise to the lithium in 7-Up. She writes with neither hyperbole nor sensationalism. Not that either is required; so horrific, absurd, and tragic are the cases and treatments. Hers is a vastly researched, engrossing, and careful study that should be required reading for both medical students and those already practitioners in the field.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe Jeziel

    -Rated a 2.5- I had to pick this one up because I work as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course. This has a lot of good information and has very interesting topics that discuss the history of psychology and its relation to many of the women who were studied and therefore, the foundation of much of what psychology stands for today. Personally, this was a very difficult book for me to get through. The information felt overwhelming and sometimes I didn't even know what I was reading. Ther -Rated a 2.5- I had to pick this one up because I work as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course. This has a lot of good information and has very interesting topics that discuss the history of psychology and its relation to many of the women who were studied and therefore, the foundation of much of what psychology stands for today. Personally, this was a very difficult book for me to get through. The information felt overwhelming and sometimes I didn't even know what I was reading. There was also no information on people of color, which I suppose can be attributed to the fact that people of color probably weren't studied for psychology? There were some pretty interesting famous individuals featured though, which was pretty cool (such as Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe). Just wasn't really my book, though I know this is one I'm going to have to be revisitng in the future in order to grade those assignments haha.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    A fascinating history of both womens'role and how women have been treated by the psychiatric and psychoanalytical professions as they have evolved. While the author claims not to disparage modern medicine its a bit disingenuous. My only disappointment is that while her criticisms are thought provoking and valid she doesn't have any real conclusion to the work. In some ways she very nearly suggests that its the existence of the psychoanalytical professions that cause the problem in the first plac A fascinating history of both womens'role and how women have been treated by the psychiatric and psychoanalytical professions as they have evolved. While the author claims not to disparage modern medicine its a bit disingenuous. My only disappointment is that while her criticisms are thought provoking and valid she doesn't have any real conclusion to the work. In some ways she very nearly suggests that its the existence of the psychoanalytical professions that cause the problem in the first place. Despite that its an excellent book that really draws out the evolution of psychoanalysis and its modern day implications.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dillon

    In all honesty, this was a weird book. Well, it is about the woman mind. Mad, Bad and Sad by Lisa Appignanesi is full of facts and contradicitons of the woman mind. It explains discrepensies back to the date of the 1800's to today. The book covers past asylums in history and also the schizophrenia that goes along with women. All in all, this was a decent book, at times the book seemed really long (560 pages) and dry and before i knew it, i read about 10 pages and was thinking about something tot In all honesty, this was a weird book. Well, it is about the woman mind. Mad, Bad and Sad by Lisa Appignanesi is full of facts and contradicitons of the woman mind. It explains discrepensies back to the date of the 1800's to today. The book covers past asylums in history and also the schizophrenia that goes along with women. All in all, this was a decent book, at times the book seemed really long (560 pages) and dry and before i knew it, i read about 10 pages and was thinking about something totally off topic. Other than that, it also had many interesting twists that sucked the reader into wanting more. Lastly, if you want to learn a little about the women mind, read this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I tried to get through this book. I really, really did, as there's a wonderful amount of information in hear about the history of the psychiatric profession in general, along with numerous case studies of how the mental health field has been applied to women though the past several centuries. Sadly, there was just too much of a Textbook Effect at work for me to make through the final third. The sheer density of the material ultimately defeated me, and when I found myself skimming entire chapters I tried to get through this book. I really, really did, as there's a wonderful amount of information in hear about the history of the psychiatric profession in general, along with numerous case studies of how the mental health field has been applied to women though the past several centuries. Sadly, there was just too much of a Textbook Effect at work for me to make through the final third. The sheer density of the material ultimately defeated me, and when I found myself skimming entire chapters I knew it was time to set this one aside.

  20. 4 out of 5

    D.E. Meredith

    Read this book twice now, with a year's gap. Brilliant case studies and well put together. Fascinating stuff and a really good one to read alongside Roy Porter and his various books on madness. Despite its girth, I read it incredibly quickly. The stuff at the end on anorexia and eating disorders, was very interesting as I came at this book with my Victoriana hat on. It seems women have forever been driven mad by the world's merciless expectations and Appignanesi is nothing if not passionately em Read this book twice now, with a year's gap. Brilliant case studies and well put together. Fascinating stuff and a really good one to read alongside Roy Porter and his various books on madness. Despite its girth, I read it incredibly quickly. The stuff at the end on anorexia and eating disorders, was very interesting as I came at this book with my Victoriana hat on. It seems women have forever been driven mad by the world's merciless expectations and Appignanesi is nothing if not passionately empathetic to our gender and our troubles. Very very poignant, in parts. Such poor lost souls....

  21. 4 out of 5

    emily

    didn't finish this one, and i maxed out my library renewals on it hoping at some point i'd feel motivated to dive back into the dense & quite often roundabout text that this book appeared to be. i don't think i got further than the first 100 pages, but even within that space the topic seemed to cycle around half-irrelevant points continuously until i forgot what the point actually was in the first place. it would need a hefty edit and an author with a bit more spark in their writing (non-fiction didn't finish this one, and i maxed out my library renewals on it hoping at some point i'd feel motivated to dive back into the dense & quite often roundabout text that this book appeared to be. i don't think i got further than the first 100 pages, but even within that space the topic seemed to cycle around half-irrelevant points continuously until i forgot what the point actually was in the first place. it would need a hefty edit and an author with a bit more spark in their writing (non-fiction does not have to be dry, you can inject personality into your facts) for me to stick around.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm in two minds about this book. The subject is interesting, and the post-Freud chapters were especially fascinating, but the book was poorly executed. The writing got quite dense and there were some egregious editing errors. I kept thinking how much better it could/should have been. On the whole I'm glad I read it, but would only recommend it if you have a strong interest in the subject matter. I'm in two minds about this book. The subject is interesting, and the post-Freud chapters were especially fascinating, but the book was poorly executed. The writing got quite dense and there were some egregious editing errors. I kept thinking how much better it could/should have been. On the whole I'm glad I read it, but would only recommend it if you have a strong interest in the subject matter.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    There were sections in this book I found very interesting; some of the stories of patients or "mind doctors" were very interesting to read and compare how things have changed over time. Ultimately, however, I was disappointed with this book. I really felt it was a trudge to get through it and for little enjoyment in comparison to the time it took me to read it. There were sections in this book I found very interesting; some of the stories of patients or "mind doctors" were very interesting to read and compare how things have changed over time. Ultimately, however, I was disappointed with this book. I really felt it was a trudge to get through it and for little enjoyment in comparison to the time it took me to read it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sherah

    This is a more up to date version of earlier 'women and madness' texts by Chesler, Showalter, and Ussher. Less biased, though. Worth the read. This is a more up to date version of earlier 'women and madness' texts by Chesler, Showalter, and Ussher. Less biased, though. Worth the read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Morag Gray

    A fascinating account of the history of the treatment of mental illness, particularly pertaining to women. Worthwhile reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Seyderhelm

    Critical feminist overview of women's relationship with the psyche doctors over last century. Brilliantly researched and intelligently written. Critical feminist overview of women's relationship with the psyche doctors over last century. Brilliantly researched and intelligently written.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    This was tortuous to get through, and in some cases I skipped sections entirely. Less of an objective historical look on the treatment of women re: mental illness and more of a rambling set of descriptions about various (mostly male) mind doctors with a noted lack of attempt to try and explain terms in a layman’s fashion -and I say this as someone who’s studied psychology. There was also no attempt to explain old diagnoses given to women in the 18th century, and how we might interpret these today This was tortuous to get through, and in some cases I skipped sections entirely. Less of an objective historical look on the treatment of women re: mental illness and more of a rambling set of descriptions about various (mostly male) mind doctors with a noted lack of attempt to try and explain terms in a layman’s fashion -and I say this as someone who’s studied psychology. There was also no attempt to explain old diagnoses given to women in the 18th century, and how we might interpret these today in a modern psychiatric setting, meaning that it was difficult to relate to these women at all. By the end of the book the author seemed to have forgotten that she was supposed to be writing about women and was instead launching on diatribes about the dangers of psychiatry and pharmaceutical drugs. For a supposed ‘history’ book there were a lot of times it felt weirdly personal, and there were a few instances of anecdotal ‘facts’ being thrown in with no evidence to back them up. I felt as if I was reading a 550 page (!!!) editorial, and not a very good one. Extremely disappointing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kira

    What is this book? For one about different identities and crises, it seems to have an identity crisis of its own. While broad and knowledgeable Mad, Bad and Sad mixes case studies with textbook-like preaching. Appignanesi has found an important, less explored viewpoint to a subject, lot of which has been written about, but this achievement is too much overshadowed by one writer's rather uncritical opinionated rambling. What is this book? For one about different identities and crises, it seems to have an identity crisis of its own. While broad and knowledgeable Mad, Bad and Sad mixes case studies with textbook-like preaching. Appignanesi has found an important, less explored viewpoint to a subject, lot of which has been written about, but this achievement is too much overshadowed by one writer's rather uncritical opinionated rambling.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    The first two thirds of this are really fairly good. The last third is dire, deeply offensive and problematic - shockingly so. I get the feeling the author was trying to manoeuvre around a number of issues and anticipate criticisms - but instead she says some really quite uneducated and worrying things. I feel as if Freud largely needed to take a back seat when she got to the 1950s - at least in her reading of events and changes. He’s influential but largely seen as wrong.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    This was so hard to read! I was a bit mislead by the blurb, don't mistake this book for a history of mental illness but rather a history of the 'professionals' who were involved in it's history. Expect sentences 8 lines long and a sense of impending dread as you realise there's still 400 pages of the book remaining! This was so hard to read! I was a bit mislead by the blurb, don't mistake this book for a history of mental illness but rather a history of the 'professionals' who were involved in it's history. Expect sentences 8 lines long and a sense of impending dread as you realise there's still 400 pages of the book remaining!

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