Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness

Little, Brown. Oct. 2015. 304p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780316277808. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316277792. MED
Researchers estimate that known pathogens account for ten to 20 percent of mental illness cases. In this daring book, prize-winning author Washington (Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself) reviews research, historical examples, and case studies to trace the development of this new mental health paradigm. Earlier shifts from Freudian to biological theories are documented. More current research and controversies regarding the efficacy of psychiatric medications and the limitations of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) are also covered. Specific linkages between pathogens and mental disease are described, such as toxoplasma and schizophrenia; streptococci and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia, and Tourette's; and gut bacteria's role in autism. Prenatal pathogenic exposure is discussed, with the author remarking on research implicating influenza as a cause of schizophrenia. Practical advice for avoiding infection is also provided. Less convincing are cited studies on infection's role in shaping national characteristics and events such as genocide. The book concludes with a discussion of the "infection connection" in developing countries. Although the author stretches the bounds of the term mental illness, an impressive array of technical research is presented in a readable style. The title will complement others on the power of pathogens, such as Hans Zinsser's Rats, Lice, and History and Paul DeKruif''s Microbe Hunters.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of science journalism and readers interested in the next "hot topic" in biological psychiatry. [See Prepub Alert, 4/13/15.]

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