The Invisible Plague: The Rise of mental Illness from 1750 to the Present

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9780813530031: The Invisible Plague: The Rise of mental Illness from 1750 to the Present

The prevalence of insanity, which was once considerably less than one case per 1,000 total population, has risen beyond five cases in 1,000. Why has mental illness reached epidemic proportions? What are the causes of severe mental illness? Why do we continue to deny the rising numbers, and how does this denial affect our ability to help those who are afflicted?

In The Invisible Plague, E. Fuller Torrey and Judy Miller examine the records on insanity in England, Ireland, Canada, and the United States over a 250-year period, concluding, through both qualitative and quantitative evidence, that disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar illness are an unrecognized, modern-day plague. This book is a unique and major contribution to medical history. Until now, insanity, and its apparent rise over the centuries, has been interpreted as a socially and economically driven phenomenon. Torrey and Miller insist upon the biological reality of psychiatric disease and examine the reasons why its contemporary prevalence has been so profoundly misunderstood.

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From the Back Cover:

Insanity, in one guise or another, has always been with us, an occasional, unbidden guest at life's masquerade. In recent centuries, however, it has appeared in previously unseen masks and in much greater numbers. The prevalence of insanity, which had once been considerably less than one case per 1,000 total population, has risen beyond five cases in 1,000. Why has insanity reached epidemic proportions? What are the causes of severe mental illness? Why do we continue to deny the rising numbers, and how does this denial affect our ability to help those who are afflicted?

In The Invisible Plague, E. Fuller Torrey and Judy Miller examine the records on insanity in England, Ireland, Canada, and the United States over a 250-year period, concluding, through both qualitative and quantitative evidence, that insanity is an unrecognized, modern-day plague. Their conclusion is based on demographic data, the writings of psychiatrists, and numerous literary sources. This book is a unique and major contribution to medical history. Until now, insanity, and its apparent rise over the centuries, has been interpreted as a socially and economically driven phenomenon. The present authors insist upon the biological reality of insanity and examine the reasons why epidemic insanity has been so profoundly misunderstood. The book concludes with descriptions of the possible biological causes of insanity.

By failing to understand insanity as an epidemic, we fail to appreciate its role in, for example, the Salem witch trials, the eugenics movement, and the mental hygiene movement, and its important effects on modern literature. We also fail to fully understand and address contemporary tragedies of the epidemic, such as the number of individuals with schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness who are homeless or in jails.

About the Author:

E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. is a research psychiatrist and executive director of the Stanley Foundation. He has published sixteen books including Surviving Schizophrenia and The Roots of Treason, nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as one of 1983's best five biographies. Judy Miller is a senior research assistant working with Torrey.

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