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Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition) [#152]
Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition) [#152]

Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition) [#152]

Tom Burns
  • Considers the nature of psychiatry today, and the future opportunities which are being opened up with the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality
  • Offers a historical overview of psychiatry's development, including the asylum movement and the discovery of the unconscious
  • Provides a thorough examination of psychiatry's past (and present) failures and mistakes
  • Explores the conceptual and philosophical controversies around psychiatry's legitimacy
  • Distinguishes psychiatry's differences (and overlaps) with psychology and psychotherapy

New to this Edition:

  • Fully updated throughout
  • Considers recent social changes in psychiatry and the issues psychiatry needs to combat today, such as the fact that women are no longer to be relied on as carers, and the problems associated with ageing populations and the challenge of dementia
  • Includes new material on scientific advances, such as Virtual Reality in both diagnosis and treatment, and artificial intelligence

Psychiatry is an endlessly controversial endeavour, incorporating emotively-charged questions over the reality of mental illness, the medicalization of everyday life, and the role of nature versus nurture which cause constant discussion today, and on which almost everyone has an opinion. 

In this Very Short Introduction Tom Burns explores the nature of psychiatry, focusing on what it can and cannot do, and discussing why its history has been beset by dramatic shifts in emphasis and types of treatment. Considering the main disorders that have shaped its practice (such as schizophrenia and manic depression), he analyses how it differs from (and overlaps with) psychology and psychotherapy. Many of the controversies arise from its dual origin 200 years ago and the separate development of psychiatry with a more 'medical' approach in the asylums, rather than the psychological approach which birthed psychoanalysis and various forms of psychotherapy. Discussing philosophical issues of psychiatry's legitimacy, Burns explores the mistakes psychiatry has made and the blind alleys in its history, before looking forward to the likely changes in its practice with the coming of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.


1: What is psychiatry?
2: Asylums and the origins of psychiatry
3: The move into the community
4: Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy
5: Psychiatry under attack
6: Open to abuse
7: Into the 21st century
Further reading

About the author: 

Tom Burns, Emeritus Professor of Social Psychiatry, Oxford. Honorary Professor of Psychiatry, UCL.
Tom Burns trained as a psychiatrist in Scotland and London before working as a general adult consultant in Sweden and London. He became a Professor of Community Psychiatry in 1993, before becoming a Professor of Social Psychiatry at the University of Oxford in 2003. His publications include Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry (Penguin, 2014) and Outreach in Community Mental Health Care (OUP, 2017). In 2006, Tom was awarded a CBE for services to mental health.

"This highly readable introductory book from a respected psychiatrist addresses many of the issues that underlie the stigma still associated with mental illness. Wide ranging in its scope of topics presented in an understandable way, the author addresses the many successful developments but does not shy away from discussing some of the celebrated but ineffective blind alleys that psychiatrists have gone down in the search for cure. This book serves as an ideal foundation for the lay reader and deserves a wide audience." - Dr Michael Maier President of the Psychiatry section, Royal Society of Medicine.

Product details

ISBN : 9780198826200

Tom Burns
168 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Oct 2018
Very Short Introductions
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Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition) [#152]

Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition) [#152]

Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition) [#152]