New and Forthcoming Books – Defining and Understanding Mental Illness for Lab, Clinic, Field

Update 12/14/10: Since several of the new books address the importance of phenomenology in understanding mental illness, I am including a link to Schizophrenia Bulletin’s theme issue on phenomenology and psychiatry for the 21st century, featuring papers from a 2005 conference of the same name at London’s Institute of Psychiatry.

Update 11/19/10: I’ve added a new edited volume to the list by Matthew Broome and Lisa Bortolotti.

This is a list in progress of new and forthcoming books that take on the objects of psychiatry from a variety of perspectives – epidemiological, psychoanalytic, philosophical, ecological, and evolutionary.

Derek Bolton, What Is Mental Disorder: An Essay in Philosophy, Science, and Values, International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry (Oxford University Press, 2008). Written by a philosopher in anticipation of the publication of DSM-5 in 2013, this book explores the various norms – biological, clinical, social – that determine whether a person is mentally ill and the validity of the distinction between mental illness and problems of living. “To what extent, notwithstanding appearances, does mental disorder involve meaningful reactions and problem-solving? These responses may be to normal problems of living, or to not so normal problems – to severe psycho-social challenges. Is there after all order in mental disorder?”

Matthew Broome and Lisa Bortolotti, Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspective, International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry (Oxford University Press, 2009). Edited by a clinical neuroscientist and a philosopher, this book analyzes the role and limitations of neuroscience in understanding psychopathology. According to the editors, philosophical engagement is necessary because genetic studies, brain imaging, and other neuroscientific research programs fall short as an explanatory framework. These methods fail to consider “folk-psychological concepts” and moral frameworks that organize our behavior (and others’ evaluations of it) as well as the significance of phenomenological experience itself (“our ordinary background sense of reality and belonging”). The authors argue that it is necessary to reconcile the empirical data of psychiatric neuroscience with conceptual analysis in order to capture all aspects of behavior relevant to psychiatry.

Kenneth S. Kendler and Josef Parnas (Eds.), Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry: Explanation, Phenomenology, and Nosology (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). Edited by a psychiatric geneticist and a philosopher, this book argues that psychiatry needs philosophy  to challenge some of the preconceived ideas and classificatory methods that underlie psychiatric practice. It examines three enduring concepts at the interface of philosophy and psychiatry – explanation, phenomenology, and nosology – and discusses some strategies for achieving greater diagnostic stability.

Craig Morgan, Kwame McKenzie, and Paul Fearon (Eds.), Psychosis and Society (Cambridge University Press, 2008). From an epidemiological perspective, this edited volume addresses variation in the incidence of psychosis among different social groups. It explores the social conditions and experiences that may contribute to etiology, based on the belief that mental illnesses are the outcome of  social, psychological and biological factors interacting over time.

Sarah Curtis, Space, Place and Mental Health (Ashgate, Aug 2010). Written by a geographer from an interdisciplinary perspective, this book explores the effects of social, physical, and symbolic or imaginary environments on mental health and illness. It includes a final section on the implications of space and place for public mental health policy.

Peter Williamson and John M. Allman, The Human Illnesses (Oxford University Press, Dec 2010). Written by a neuropsychiatrist and an evolutionary biologist, this book argues that “singularly human” psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism arise from a selective failure of neural networks associated with the integration of cognition, affect, and perception.

Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber,  Mary Target,  and  Jorge Canestri (Eds.), Early Development and its Disturbances: Clinical, Conceptual and Empirical Research on ADHD and other Psychopathologies and its Epistemological Reflections (Karnac books, 2010). The international contributors of this edited volume address the predicament of children diagnosed with ADHD and other developmental disturbances from a psychoanalytic perspective in dialogue with clinical and social neuroscience. The book also addresses the concept of resiliency as it relates to those severely traumatized in early life, and the importance of human relationships.

Richard J. McNally, What Is Mental Illness? (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2011). Written by Harvard psychologist Richard McNally, author of Remembering Trauma (HUP, 2003), this book proposes to cut through the “professional jargon and hot air”  and address the ongoing struggle to define and distinguish mental illness from temperamental differences in childhood,  normal sadness, and  predicaments in everyday life.

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About Constance A. Cummings

Constance A. Cummings, PhD, is Project Director of the non-profit Foundation for Psychocultural Research, which supports and advances interdisciplinary research and scholarship at the intersection of brain, mind, culture, and mental health and illness. She is co-editor (with Carol Worthman, Paul Plotsky, and Dan Schechter) of Formative Experiences: The Interaction of Caregiving, Culture, and Developmental Psychobiology (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and (with Laurence Kirmayer and Rob Lemelson) the forthcoming Re-Visioning Psychiatry: Cultural Phenomenology, Critical Neuroscience, and Global Mental Health (Cambridge, 2015). She received her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from New York University.

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