Demedicalising Misery: Psychiatry, Psychology and the Human Condition.

Demedicalising Misery: Psychiatry, Psychology and the Human Condition. Co-edited with Mark Rapley  and Joanna Moncrieff. Published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Thomas Szasz (1960) suggested that the myth of ‘mental illness’ functions to ‘render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflict in human relations’. The medicalization of distress enables the mental health professions to manage the human suffering that they are confronted with, and also the suspicion that there is little that they can do to help. But the medicalization of misery and madness renders people unable to comprehend their experiences in ordinary, meaningful terms. In this collection we restore to everyday discourse a way of understanding distress that, unlike contemporary psychiatry and psychology, recognises and respects the essential humanness of the human condition. De-medicalizing Misery is a shorthand term for this project. The book resists the psychiatrization and psychologization of human experience, and seeks to place what are essentially moral and political – not medical – matters back at the centre of our understanding of human suffering.

Notes on Contributors
Preface; R.Dallos
Carving Nature at its Joints? DSM and the Medicalization of Everyday Life; M.Rapley, J.Moncrieff & J.Dillon
Dualisms and the Myth of Mental Illness; P.Thomas & P.Bracken
Making the World Go Away, and How Psychology and Psychiatry Benefit; M.Boyle
Cultural Diversity and Racism: An Historical Perspective; S.Fernando
The Social Context of Paranoia; D.J.Harper
From ‘Bad Character’ to BPD: The Medicalization of ‘Personality Disorder’; J.Bourne
Medicalizing Masculinity; S.Timimi
Can Traumatic Events Traumatise People? Trauma, Madness and ‘Psychosis’; L.Johnstone
Children Who Witness Violence at Home; A.Vetere
Discourses of Acceptance and Resistance: Speaking Out About Psychiatry; E.Speed
The Personal Is the Political; J.Dillon
‘I’m Just, You Know, Joe Bloggs’: The Management of Parental Responsibility for First-Episode Psychosis; C.Coulter & M.Rapley
The Myth of the Antidepressant: An Historical Analysis; J.Moncrieff
Antidepressants and the Placebo Response; I.Kirsch
Why Were Doctors so Slow to Recognise Antidepressant Discontinuation Problems?; D.Double
Toxic Psychology; C.Newnes
Psychotherapy: Illusion With No Future?; D.Smail
The Psychologization of Torture; N.Patel
What Is To Be Done?; J.Moncrieff, J.Dillon & M.Rapley
Figure: Papers Using Term ‘Antidepressant’ On Medline 1957-1965

‘Despite longstanding awareness of the limitations of the medical model when applied to difficulties of human behavior and adjustment, the fields of psychiatry and psychology continue to accede to the pressures of medicine and the drug industry in their conceptualization of these human realities. Ironically, however, this medical model, eager as it is to fit so much of people’s experience into diagnostic categories, is a social construction. This book represents a significant effort to de-mystify, de-medicalize, and reclaim important aspects of the human condition.’ – Kenneth D. Keith, Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of San Diego, USA


De-Medicalizing Misery has assembled an impressive cast of leading mental health experts. Together they challenge the simplistic and pessimistic biological model of human distress that has, with eager support from the pharmaceutical industry, dominated the mental health field for far too long. This evidence-based, humane and optimistic book not only explains where biological psychiatry went wrong, it spells out the alternatives.’ – John Read, University of Auckland, New Zealand and Editor of ‘Models of Madness’


  ‘The psychiatrist or psychologist is expected to do something for every patient sitting in front of him or her, but how robust is the intellectual basis of psychiatric science when psychiatric ‘diseases’ are merely symptom clusters – clustered by us, not by nature? We are in indeed in the age of the medicalization of everyday life, when Lord Layard, economist and architect of the IAPT programme, can write in the BMJ that ‘mental illness’ has taken over from unemployment as our greatest social problem. But what is the test of ‘mental illness’? In DeMedicalizing Misery the authors examine some of the domains lamentably absent from orthodox psychiatry and psychology training programmes, with their medical model focus, and in so doing raise the IQ of the whole debate. And not just for clinicians.’ – Dr Derek Summerfield, Consultant Psychiatrist & Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, UK.

Authors: MARK RAPLEY is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of East London, UK. He is the author of The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, Quality of Life Research and, with Susan Hansen and Alec McHoul, Beyond Help: A Consumers’ Guide to Psychology.
JOANNA MONCRIEFF is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mental Health Sciences at University College London, UK and a Practising Consultant Psychiatrist at the North East London Foundation Trust. She has spent her academic career re-evaluating the nature and efficacy of psychiatric drugs and exploring the history and politics of psychiatry. She is the co-chair of the Critical Psychiatry Network, and has campaigned against the dominance of the biomedical approach to psychiatry, the extension of psychiatric coercion and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, in alliance with service user groups. She is the author of The Myth of the Chemical Cure (Palgrave Macmillan), A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs, and numerous papers and book chapters.
JACQUI DILLON is the National Chair of the Hearing Voices Network, UK, and a Director of Intervoice – the International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices. She is a campaigner, international speaker and trainer specialising in hearing voices, psychosis, dissociation and trauma. She is the co-editor of Living with Voices: An Anthology of 50 Voice Hearers’ Stories of Recovery. She has published numerous articles and papers, is on the editorial board of the journal Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches and is a member of the collective for Asylum, The Magazine for Democratic Psychiatry.

7 replies
  1. Dr. Cathy Kezelman
    Dr. Cathy Kezelman says:

    I am very keen to read your book as soon as it comes out. I am an adult survivor of child abuse and a medical practitioner by training.

    I have also been involved in advocating for the introduction of trauma-informed services for adult survivors in Australia, and am currently CEO of ASCA, a national Australian organisation for adults traumatised through abuse and neglect in childhood.

    Having been medically trained but having had the lived experience of being a survivor has shown me the need for a major shift in the way health care practitioner approach human beings who have developed mental health challenges as a result of their trauma. Please keep me informed about your book, when it is published and any other developments you feel are relevant

    Congratulations! Cathy

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui says:

      Hi Cathy,

      Great to hear from you. I have already been told about your work by somebody I met at a talk I gave in Perth so brilliant you got in touch! Very pleased that you are interested in our new book which will be out later this year. I will definitely keep you informed of new developments that might be of interest.

      The work that you and your organization is doing looks amazing – very much connected to issues close to my heart. I will be back in Australia later this year/early next, so perhaps we could when I am in Sydney?

      All the best,


    • Jacqui
      Jacqui says:


      Its a great book – even if I say so myself! Hope you find it useful – be interested to know your thoughts when you’ve read it…

      All the best,


  2. Riou
    Riou says:

    Dear Jacqui,

    Over decades now I have been taking so many cocktails of prescribed psychoactive drugs it is very hard to remember them, let alone list them. However, I am now entering the third year of a comprehensive and self-initiated program to remove them from ‘my diet’ which if successful, as I am only now taking one, could leave me drug free in 18 months for the first time in 25 years. I’d never heard of the medical model until recently and I couldn’t even tell you what the dissociative disorder I ‘have been treated for’ is, as whenever ‘psychosis’ or ‘schzoid’ labels were employed they were so often rendered useless by a precursory label of ‘atypical’. The psychologist I now see recommended I look you up on the internet and I feel your book appears a must have for me to read. In the whole time of my everyday struggle with extraordinary and fluctuating symptoms, without answers I only ever wanted honesty. If that meant some doctor saying of a drug ‘this is only a punt but it might help’ this would have been so positive to counteract the year on year feeling of personal failure that evocates so much of society more generally that it is always my fault. Thank you Jacqui for the possibility to get some honesty and maybe, having read it, a bit of hope…

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui says:

      Dear Riou,

      I am sorry that is has taken SO long for you to finally get some decent support for your difficulties – sadly you are not alone in having this experience. Thankfully, things are slowly but steadily changing. It is fantastic that you are managing to come off your medications and have done so in such a thouhgtful and careful way – very wise – respect to you.

      Wishing you all the very best on your journey.


  3. Adele Bromfield
    Adele Bromfield says:

    I, myself am writing a book for professionals in the mental health care system here in South Wales UK. I’ve suffered with severe depression and anxiety since trauma in childhood and hope that my efforts and experiences ( not just mine but many I have collected from friends with similar problems) will give some enlightenment to the therapists that try to help. I have seen for a long time now, that there needs to be a drastic change in methodology and attitude towards people who say……….for example, self harm, or attempt suicide. I’m amazed that in twenty years of suffering and turning from this therapist to that, that no one in the field of mental health professionals has come up with the idea that it’s the prospective of the patient that is the key to healing, not academia or protocols and directives that come from people who mean well but don’t have a clue until they try to REACH the patient on the same level.
    I’m looking forward to reading the book. After coming across this site (given to me by my therapist who I must say is amazing in her techniques) I am………yeah! at last, something’s being done to help those like me! something that makes sense and shows a light at the end of the tunnel!
    Thanks for all the hard work you put into this and if I can ever help in any way, please don’t hesitate to let me know.


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