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Thomas Szasz: Mental Illness is a Myth

Mental illness is a myth according to Thomas Szasz. He was a psychiatrist that had different views on what mental illness is and how it should be treated. His earlier work helped make him become one of the most recognized researchers in the field. In 1961, he wrote a book titled “The Myth of Mental Illness.” This along with other published works created controversial arguments and views about what mental illness is. In short, Szasz didn’t believe mental illnesses were real. A number of top organizations and agencies completely disagreed with his findings, but something about them still had others in his field curious.

Szasz argued mental illness was not something like cancer in which you could see it. He compared his thoughts to cancer since there are elements of this disease that seemed somewhat similar and different than mental illness. Mental illness can affect the brain in different ways. Szasz did agree on certain elements of mental illness such as how Alzheimer’s affect’s brain activity. But for the most part how tests determine a person’s state and other physical factors (which he thought were little to none), helped Szasz come to his conclusion that mental illness and how people were being treated for it should remain a private matter.

Szasz felt that mental illness was something no one could control except for the patient. Some people were confused by his findings since many assume mental illness is real because of symptoms and occurrences that happen. There were some illnesses he gave credit to but only under specific circumstances. Because of his views and research studies he was able to sit on a number of boards (board of directors) with top organizations in the field of psychiatry. Yet, there were more organizations that completely disagreed with his findings since his prove did not line up with their research study results.

His bestselling book “The Myth of Mental Illness” is still something people talk about today. The book has interesting feedback on how Szasz views mental health. He discusses how he thinks people should be treated and how they should be diagnosed. He also expresses his interests and beliefs as to why certain aspects of mental health may be nonexistent. His findings have other researchers pondering at other possible ways to treat the mentally ill.


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