Top 10 books about psychiatry

8. The Drama of Being a Child by Alice Miller

A ringing rebuke to the Freudian model of childhood development, “according to which children are viewed as crafty creatures, dominated by wicked drives, who invent stories and attack their innocent parents or desire them sexually”. Miller is in no doubt that addiction, depression and other psychic disorders can be traced to actual mistreatment in childhood, however ordinary. In calling attention to how children internalise everyday punishments, Miller, writing in 1979, proved as influential as Laing in depicting the home as a primal war zone.

9. Equus by Peter Shaffer

The drama of being a child, writ large. Child psychiatrist Martin Dysart faces a challenge to his safe world view in the form of 17-year-old Alan Strang, who has evolved a private theology around the worship of horses and their primitive energy. Alan exhibits a Dionysian fervour which it is Strang’s job to tame, though he is secretly in awe of it. The catch: he can help Alan adjust to “normal” life, but the sacrifice will be the boy’s individuality.

10. Darkness Visible by William Styron

Styron’s account of being overtaken in late middle age by clinical depression’s “toxic and unnameable tide” is an urgent frontline report of how it feels when the mind turns “agonisingly inward”. Its publication in 1990 helped initiate a public conversation about the condition and launched the contemporary trend in depression memoirs.Yet the candour and paradoxical beauty of Styron’s remains unequalled. His description of the hospital where he slowly recovers as “a kinder, gentler madhouse than the one I’d left” is rich in tender humour; his final message charged with hope: that those who dwell “in depression’s dark wood” will at last emerge, like Dante climbing out of hell’s black depths, into “the shining world”.

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