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, 320 pages

3 line drawings

May 2008



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A Short History of Bipolar Disorder

This provocative history of bipolar disorder illuminates how perceptions of illness, if not the illnesses themselves, are mutable over time. Beginning with the origins of the concept of mania—and the term maniac—in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, renowned psychiatrist David Healy examines how concepts of mental afflictions evolved as scientific breakthroughs established connections between brain function and mental illness. Healy recounts the changing definitions of mania through the centuries, explores the effects of new terminology and growing public awareness of the disease on culture and society, and examines the rise of psychotropic treatments and pharmacological marketing over the past four decades. Along the way, Healy clears much of the confusion surrounding bipolar disorder even as he raises crucial questions about how, why, and by whom the disease is diagnosed.

Drawing heavily on primary sources and supplemented with interviews and insight gained over Healy’s long career, this lucid and engaging overview of mania sheds new light on one of humankind’s most vexing ailments.

David Healy is a professor of psychiatry and the director of the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine at Cardiff University. He is the author of several books on the history of psychopharmaceuticals, including Let Them Eat Prozac, The Antidepressant Era, and The Creation of Psychopharmacology.

"If David Healy's intent is to present a cohesive, thorough, integrated and provocative account of the history of the concept of mania and the evolution of what is currently called bipolar disorder, he is tremendously successful."

"Healy reminds us that we need to ask ourselves what it means to be ill and what it means to be well."

"A learned and polemical volume in the series Biographies of Disease published by the Johns Hopkins University Press... Healy is an intellectual bomb-thrower, a most erudite and clever doctor with an anarchic streak that he cannot quite reconcile with disinterested historical inquiry. He is interesting precisely for the subtle detonations that he sets off in the reader’s mind, rattling the received ideas too comfortably ensconced there."

"A powerful political tract. As social history it provides the most detailed available account of the interactions of psychiatry and the world of pharmaceutical manufacturing."

"Provides a probing and challenging commentary on the state of contemporary psychiatry."

"David Healy is indeed an enfant terrible—and a very brave man. I doubt he is on Eli Lilly’s or Pfizer’s Christmas card list."

" Mania is a work that deserves a wide readership."

"Well-written and compelling... I encourage you to read this exceptional book."

"The book is a scholarly one [and] Healy's wide knowledge of the facts of the history is impressive."

"[Healy's] work has enriched our historiographic discourse enormously and social historians of medicine can only greet that as good news."

"How did we come to apply such a serious diagnosis to vaguely depressed or irritable adults, to unruly children and to nursing home residents? Is it simply that psychiatric science has progressed and now allows us to detect more easily an illness that had previously been ignored or misunderstood? Healy has another, more cynical explanation: the never-ending expansion of the category of bipolar disorder benefits large pharmaceutical companies eager to sell medications marketed with the disorder in mind."

"A distinct and powerful view of the history of psychiatry that arouses controversy in the best sense of the word. Healy's discussion of the role of drug companies is especially right on the mark."

"Well paced, judicious, and extremely well researched, Healy's powerful book deserves a wide readership in and far beyond psychiatry."

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