At last, after a 50-year detour through the psychoanalytic wilderness, psychiatry...confirmed that mental disorders are brain diseases after all ... The historian of science Anne Harrington has a problem with such triumphalist narratives ... Her jarring verdict notwithstanding, Ms. Harrington’s superb book is a nuanced account of biological psychiatry. ... In Mind Fixers, Anne Harrington has written an excellent, engaging guide to what biological psychiatry has accomplished—and not accomplished—so far.
Disagreement is central to psychiatry, a fact that resonates throughout Anne Harrington’s masterful history ... Harrington unpacks the complicated attempts to link human brain chemistry to madness with crystalline clarity, showing just how little evidence there was for chemical fluctuations causing any psychic illness that could be validly and reliably diagnosed ... Harrington’s book isn’t an indictment of the pharmaceutical companies, though. There are too many players on the stage of modern mental illness, and the book refreshingly avoids singling out any one as the villain (although the book makes clear that private insurance companies have much to answer for) ... To Harrington’s credit, Mind Fixers ends with a proposal for an alternative: a bigger tent ... Overall, though, the story that Mind Fixers tells is a tragedy. So much mental effort, by so many dedicated human beings, has gone into understanding the mind in ways that will keep the 'unscientific' Freudian drama at bay.
... masterpiece ... a readable, revisionist synthesis that shows that mind and brain medicine has not come as far as we imagine or wish. Harrington writes energetically about the contributions of seminal figures in psychiatry, neurology, and biology ... Harrington’s grasp of this story and the clarity with which, with limited moralism, she delivers a tale about the 'big picture' of psychiatry and neurology is emblematic of the historian’s craft.