Review of Allen Frances’ Memoir and Critique of the DSM


Christian Perring of the invaluable Metapsychology Online reviews “Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life,” by Allen Frances. Perring notes that it is “surprising to have a prominent psychiatrist who was such a pillar of the psychiatric establishment be so forthright in his condemnation of the pharmaceutical industry and the widespread use of psychiatric medication.  While Frances defends the judicious use of medication for serious mental illness, he argues that the bulk of the pharmacological treatment of the worried well is unhelpful and inappropriate.”


  1. The review doesn’t say much. But why is there no link to the review? If there were there would undoubtedly be more people who commented here. I’m almost finished the Frances book. It is a well written trenchant critique of “diagnostic inflation.”–of the influence of Pharm over the psychiatric profession. For those who haven’t read Thomas Szasz or R D Laing it may make sense to save normal. But Frances has no rationale for drawing the line around normal. Why should “normal” be given special treatment? It has no more claim to this status other than the fact that Frances gives normal a good review—as he might give his favorite movie. What IS normal? It is tautologically defined as that which is not pathological. It is a purely arbitrary definition, purely capricious, it is that which is legitimized by the will to power of those whose business is making up the psychiatric rules. If you read Thomas Szasz you will see that the medical model is nothing other than arbitrary evaluations made by those whose will to power is socially accepted in society. Thus in 1972 homosexuality was a mental illness. But because homosexuals were also psychiatrists(those whose will to power was accepted), in 1973 the APA decided by a vote that homosexuality was not an illness. Although Frances does not want to save the mad–the abnormal– many do. Szasz was the first in the post-WWII era. In the 1970s hundreds of mental patients formed the nucleus of the mental patients’ liberation movement. By 1999 this group had grown and the retitled themselves the mad pride movement. So why not save the mad? Frances thinks it is axiomatic that inundating THESE people with psychiatric drugs will save them from perdition; thus Frances draws the line around his own comfort zone. There is no basis for the medical model. There is no mental illness, only more or less happy, more or less miserable people. But the more miserable may be more inspired, more insightful, more aware…Madness may in fact be a dangerous gift.
    See my book
    Seth Farber, Ph.D.

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