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Shrinks

The Untold Story of Psychiatry

By Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Ogi Ogas
21-minute read
Audio available
Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry by Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Ogi Ogas

Shrinks (2015) tells the story of psychiatry’s astonishing development throughout the centuries. These blinks take us on a tour of the discipline’s crude past, its strange and shocking therapies and its great improvements.  

  • History buffs interested in the nature of early psychiatry
  • Individuals wanting to learning more about the methods of psychiatry today
  • Those wondering why psychology sometimes gets a bad rap

Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, is a former president of the American Psychiatric Association. He is the Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Ogi Ogas is a computational neuroscientist. A former Fellow of the Homeland Security department, he’s contributed to two successful science books about sex, including A Billion Wicked Thoughts. Ogas, a passionate game show contestant, once won $500,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

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Shrinks

The Untold Story of Psychiatry

By Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Ogi Ogas
  • Read in 21 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 13 key ideas
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Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry by Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Ogi Ogas
Synopsis

Shrinks (2015) tells the story of psychiatry’s astonishing development throughout the centuries. These blinks take us on a tour of the discipline’s crude past, its strange and shocking therapies and its great improvements.  

Key idea 1 of 13

In the eighteenth century, reformers tried to improve the horrible, desolate asylums housing those with mental illnesses.

Before psychiatric hospitals, life was nothing less than horrifying for those with mental illnesses. While some sufferers were lucky enough to receive care at home, most were destined for a vagrant life on the street. Many others had it worse and were forced to spend their lives in asylums.

In the eighteenth century, asylums were filthy, dark and overcrowded. Inmates were left locked up in tiny cells for weeks, chained, often beaten with sticks and doused with icy water. As if that wasn’t bad enough, patients, like performers in a freak show, were put on public display on Sundays.

Even in better institutions, treatment was still appalling. Patients were subjected to a whole host of primitive medical practices – bloodletting, purging and blistering, to name a few – that were, at the time, standard. Thankfully, a few reformers were determined to change these conditions.

In Europe, physician Philippe Pinel proposed a new, humane treatment of the mentally ill. In 1792, he became head of the Paris Asylum for Insane Men. There, he ended the practice of bleeding and purging patients, and removed their chains.

Emphasizing the importance of clean, pleasant housing, he treated his patients with fairness and created a structured schedule of activities and light manual tasks that they followed each day. The purpose of this schedule was to give back to patients a sense of self-mastery.

In the United States, the physician and humanist Benjamin Rush established a benevolent approach to psychiatry not unlike Pinel’s. Born in 1745, Rush was among the founding fathers of the United States. Few today know that he was also America’s very first modern psychiatrist. Rush also unshackled his patients and forbade the beating of asylum inmates, and lobbied for the improvement of living conditions for psychological inpatients in the state of Pennsylvania.

In the nineteenth century, more and more psychiatrists came to follow the example set by Rush and Pinel. Psychiatry was on its way to becoming a humane practice. Or was it?

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