The June 2016 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore psychiatric semiology, the German Research Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, madness in novelist Muriel Spark’s work, LSD as treatment in Denmark, the DSM and learning disabilities, Joseph Mason’s madhouse, and the work of Max Scheler. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The emergence of psychiatric semiology during the Age of Revolution: evolving concepts of ‘normal’ and ‘pathological’,” by Diego Enrique Londoño and Professor Tom Dening. The abstract reads,
This article addresses some important questions in psychiatric semiology. The concept of a sign is crucial in psychiatry. How do signs emerge, and what gives them validity and legitimacy? What are the boundaries of ‘normal’ and ‘pathological’ behaviour and mental experiences? To address these issues, we analyse the characteristics and rules that govern semiological signs and clinical elements. We examine ‘normality’ from the perspective of Georges Canguilehm and compare the differences of ‘normal’ in physiology and psychiatry. We then examine the history and the philosophical, linguistic and medical-psychiatric origins of semiology during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (the Age of Revolution). The field of rhetoric and oratory has emphasized the importance of passions, emotions and language as applied to signs of madness. Another perspective on semiology, provided by Michel Foucault, lays stress on the concept of ‘instinct’ and the axis of voluntary-involuntary behaviour. Finally, we analyse how statistics and eugenics have played an important role in our current conceptualization of the norm and therefore the scientific discourse behind the established clinical signs.
The December 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore multiaxial assessment in the DSM-III, electroconvulsive therapy, and veridical hallucinations in France, among other topics. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Félix Voisin and the genesis of abnormals,” by Claude-Olivier Doron. The abstract reads,
This article traces the genealogy of the category of ‘abnormals’ in psychiatry. It focuses on the French alienist Felix Voisin (1794–1872) who played a decisive role in the creation of alienist knowledge and institutions for problem children, criminals, idiots and lunatics. After a presentation of the category of ‘abnormals’ as understood at the end of the nineteenth century, I identify in the works of Voisin a key moment in the concept’s evolution. I show how, based on concepts borrowed from phrenology and applied first to idiocy, Voisin allows alienism to establish links between the medico-legal (including penitentiary) and medical-educational fields (including difficult childhood). I stress the extent to which this enterprise is related to Voisin’s humanism, which claimed to remodel pedagogy and the right to punish on the anthropological particularities of individuals, in order to improve them.
In our introduction to this special issue on the histories of feminism, gender, sexuality, and the psy-disciplines, we propose the tripartite framework of “feminism and/in/as psychology” to conceptualize the dynamics of their conjoined trajectories and relationship to gender and sexuality from the late 19th through the late 20th centuries. “Feminism and psychology” highlights the tensions between a political movement and a scientific discipline and the efforts of participants in each to problematize the other. “Feminism in psychology” refers to those historical moments when self-identified feminists intervened in psychology to alter its content, methodologies, and populations. We propose, as have others, that these interventions predate the 1970s, the period most commonly associated with the “founding” of feminist psychology. Finally, “feminism as psychology/psychology as feminism” explores the shared ground between psychology and feminism—the conceptual, methodological, and (more rarely) epistemological moments when psychology and feminism made common cause. We suggest that the traffic between feminism and psychology has been persistent, continuous, and productive, despite taking different historically and geographically contingent forms.
Full titles, authors, and abstracts for articles in this special issue follow below.
The September 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Among the articles in this issue are ones on Carl Jung (above) and his investigation of his cousin’s mediumship, the epistemological problems of incorporating possession into the DSM, a case study of a museum of mental health care history, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstract follow below.
“The epistemological significance of possession entering the DSM,” by Craig Stephenson. The abstract reads,
The discourse of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM reflects the inherently dialogic or contradictory nature of its stated mandate to demonstrate both ‘nosological completeness’ and cultural ‘inclusiveness’. Psychiatry employs the dialogic discourse of the DSM in a one-sided, positivistic manner by identifying what it considers universal mental disease entities stripped of their cultural context. In 1992 the editors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders proposed to introduce possession into their revisions. A survey of the discussions about introducing ‘possession’ as a dissociative disorder to be listed in the DSM-IV indicates a missed epistemological break. Subsequently the editors of the DSM-5 politically ‘recuperated’ possession into its official discourse, without acknowledging the anarchic challenges that possession presents to psychiatry as a cultural practice.
David Aaronovitch of The Times traces the powerful intellectual influences behind what he sees as one of the most important cultural shifts of the past 40 years: from a society in which accusations of sexual abuse were wrongly ignored to one in which the falsely accused were crushed by a system where the mantra was “victims must be believed”.
In the first of two programmes, Aaronovitch will examine the role played by unproven psychoanalytic theories which, from the 1980s, spread from the world of therapists in Canada and the USA to social work, medicine and then to law enforcement in Britain.
From the NSPCC to academia it was believed that children were being sexually abused in group Satanic rituals, which involved murder and animal sacrifice. The programme will explore how these bizarre ideas took hold, how they were related to mistaken psychotherapeutic practices, and how they resonate still.
The programme will look at the influences of four books which played a key role in influencing the intellectual and cultural climate. These are Sybil, Michelle Remembers, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and The Courage to Heal.
In the second of two programmes, Aaronovitch re-examines the role played by unproven psychoanalytic theories which, from the 1980s, spread from the world of therapists in Canada and the USA to social work, medicine and then to law enforcement in Britain.
The programme explores the parallels between the belief in ritual abuse with some of the claims being made today about VIP paedophile rings and group murder.
Some of the mistakes of the past – such as the false accusations made against parents in the Orkneys and Rochdale of satanic abuse – have been acknowledged. But, Aaronovitch argues, without a profound understanding of how and why such moral panics arise we are unlikely to avoid similar mistakes in the future. And when such mistakes recur we risk an over-reaction and a return to a culture of denial.
Episode one can be heard online here and episode two can be heard here.
“Why is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders so hard to revise? Path-dependence and “lock-in” in classification,” by Rachel Cooper. The abstract reads,
The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the D.S.M.-5, was published in May 2013. In the lead up to publication, radical changes to the classification were anticipated; there was widespread dissatisfaction with the previous edition and it was accepted that a “paradigm shift” might be required. In the end, however, and despite huge efforts at revision, the published D.S.M.-5 differs far less than originally envisaged from its predecessor. This paper considers why it is that revising the D.S.M. has become so difficult. The D.S.M. is such an important classification that this question is worth asking in its own right. The case of the D.S.M. can also serve as a study for considering stasis in classification more broadly; why and how can classifications become resistant to change? I suggest that classifications like the D.S.M. can be thought of as forming part of the infrastructure of science, and have much in common with material infrastructure. In particular, as with material technologies, it is possible for “path dependent” development to cause a sub-optimal classification to become “locked in” and hard to replace.
The December 2013 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are articles that explore the magazines produced in Irish psychiatric hospitals, the nature of DSM classification, and the history of autism. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55): a bicentennial pathographical review,” by Johan Schioldann and Ib Søgaard. The abstract reads,
Researchers in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, medicine and theology have made exhaustive efforts to shed light on the elusive biography/pathography of the great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55). This ‘bicentennial’ article reviews his main pathographical diagnoses of, respectively, possible manic-depressive [bipolar] disease, epilepsy, complex partial seizure disorder, Landry-Guillain-Barré’s acute ascending paralysis, acute intermittent porphyria with possible psychiatric manifestations, and syphilidophobia.
BackStory with the American History Guys is a podcast series hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh. In each episode Ayers, Onuf, and Balogh, along with their guests, explore the historical roots of a topic of current relevance. Two recent podcasts explore issues of interest to historians of psychology. In “States of Mind: Mental Illness in America,” the American history guys use the recent release of the DSM-5 as a springboard for discussion of the history of mental illness in the United States,
…exploring how the diagnostic line between mental health and madness has shifted over time, and how we’ve treated those on both sides of it. We’ll hear how the desire of slaves to escape bondage was once interpreted as a psychological disorder, how a woman’s sleepwalking landed her in the state asylum, and how perspectives on depression altered in the 1970s. Plus, the Guys walk us through a mid-20th century quiz that promised to identify a new kind of mental “disorder” – our susceptibility to fascism.
“Bridge for Sale: Deception in America,” features an interview with psychologist Geoff Bunn on the history of the lie detector and its connection to Wonder Woman, which is also detailed in his recent book The Truth Machine: A Social History of the Lie Detector. In this episode, the American history guys,
…dig into the long story of confidence men and counterfeiters. We discover a time when fake money jump-started the economy, and take a look at the long, strange history of “the truth compelling machine.” And, oh yeah… we try to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.
The June 2013 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are articles on diagnostic categories in the DSM, erogtism in Norway, and relationship between Japanese and German psychiatry before World War II. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Ergotism in Norway. Part 2: The symptoms and their interpretation from the eighteenth century onwards,” by Torbjørn Alm and Brita Elvevåg. The abstract reads,
Ergotism, the disease caused by consuming Claviceps purpurea, a highly poisonous, grain-infecting fungus, occurred at various places scattered throughout Norway during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By focusing on these cases we chart the changing interpretations of the peculiar disease, frequently understood within a religious context or considered as a supernatural (e.g. ghostly) experience. However, there was a growing awareness of the disease ergotism, and from the late eighteenth century onwards it was often correctly interpreted as being due to a fungus consumed via bread or porridge. Also, nineteenth-century fairy-tales and regional legends reveal that people were increasingly aware and fearful of the effects of consuming infected grain.
The meeting got off to a great start with a keynote address by Martyn Pickersgill on the DSM as technology, particularly in relation to various uses and understandings of anti-social personality disorder. Other papers thus far have looked at an array of conceptual and historical issues related to the DSM, new and old. This has included a symposium on sexual disorders, discussion of efforts to classify mental disorders prior to the construction of the DSM, and papers on the ways in which the Rorschach has been used to investigate both homosexuality and homophobia.
Another full day of programming taking place as we speak and the conference will close today with a keynote address from Ian Parker.