...one of the strengths of this book is Begley’s rigorous clarity about her subject matter. She admits that she does not want to seem like the 'hammer-wielder to whom everything looks like a nail,' but the breadth of her knowledge and journalistic rigor prevents such excess. She draws a bright line between our collective and nearly universal smartphone-scanning, computer-dependent actions and those that are evidence of a deeper dysfunction ... Begley takes us on a tour of compulsions through history and the fascinating transition as they moved from being seen as a religious phenomenon to being regarded as a medical illness.
On the whole, Can’t Just Stop is fast-paced and engaging without being simplistic, and Begley shows admirable restraint in eschewing news-you-can-use prescriptions for how to improve your productivity or otherwise better your life. Begley is strongest in passages where she uses her reportorial eye for detail to unpack complicated ideas with a few choice examples ... After illustrating how painful obsessive-compulsive disorder can be to those in its grip, Begley elegantly explains the difference between compulsive behavior and O.C.D ... Ultimately, however, Begley undercuts herself with the sort of sweeping, overgeneralized assertions that seem to be endemic among popular science books these days. Her facile tendency to view historical figures through the lens of her subject matter is, at times, almost farcical ... Even more confounding are those times when Begley fails to provide readers with enough evidence for her claims.
The case studies she provides, sometimes to the point of overkill, can seem alarming ... Part of the book's fascination can be found in Begley's personal case study, as she gradually shifts her view about compulsive behaviors from frightening to logical ... Due to Begley's dense explanations of brain science, the book requires close attention at times, but her captivating, accessible anecdotes of individual cases lead to unforgettable scenarios.
Begley provides riveting case studies, including a woman who must check her refrigerator repeatedly to ensure that her cat is not inside ... Much of the text summarizes well-known scholarship, but Begley's final chapter on brain function in the compulsive mind contains fresh insight that could fundamentally alter how we think of, and treat, mental illness going forward.