Complain to your doctor about a mental health problem and you will probably leave the surgery with a prescription for drugs, despite increasing doubts about their effectiveness and fears about side-effects. The prevailing wisdom is that psychiatric disorders are genetically based brain diseases, biological abnormalities that can be controlled with medication. Every year, doctors in England dole out 31 million prescriptions for antidepressants alone.
It is a state of affairs that makes Richard Bentall furious. In 2004, Bentall, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Bangor, wrote Madness Explained, in which he argued that hearing voices, hallucinations and other symptoms of “severe” mental illness are just exaggerations of quirks experienced by us all. That won him the British Psychological Book Of The Year award. Now, in Doctoring The Mind: Why Psychiatric Treatments Fail, he criticises mental health services, and psychiatry in particular.