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Demystifying PsychiatryReview - Demystifying Psychiatry
by Charles F. Zorumski and Eugene H. Rubin
Oxford University Press, 2010
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H.
Jun 29th 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 26)

Demystifying Psychiatry revealingly explores parts of the expansive realm of psychiatry.  The book's two authors are moored academically to the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, where coauthor Dr. Charles F. Zorumski is the Samuel B. Guze Professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatry, and coauthor Dr. Eugene H. Rubin is a Professor of Psychiatry.  As described in the book's "Preface", its purpose is to describe straightforwardly the field of psychiatry.  And indeed, in a plain English stylistic manner bereft largely of academic jargon, Zorumski and Rubin inform readers instructively about some of the substantive matter comprising this field.  They likewise alert readers to extant gaps in knowledge in psychiatry's incompletely filled field of substance.  The textual contents are conceived especially well, stylistically and substantively, to help demystify psychiatry for lay readers.

But on the other side of the ledger, the dose of technical sophistication administered by Zorumski and Rubin is diluted to a degree that may weaken the book's appeal to professionals and academics.  In this regard, the generalized discourse of Zorumski and Rubin is characteristically quite informative albeit relatively shallow in academic depth.  The relative superficiality of the book's substance may be of critical concern to readers desiring intense academic rigor.

The textual contents are not research referenced.

Following the text, however, is an extensive "Bibliography", providing a plethora of citations for research materials tethered to psychiatry.  These citations may function helpfully as a connecting bridge for readers energized intellectually to pursue further study of issues relating to psychiatry.

There is a distinctive structural feature of the book, identified as "Take-Home Messages", which comprises the concluding section of the respective chapters.  In this section, key didactic lessons imparted by a particular chapter are summarized pithily.

Substantively, Zorumski and Rubin traverse selected regions of the vast expanse of psychiatry.  The scope of their substantive exploration ranges to expert comment concerning:  some of the types of disorders treated by psychiatrists (Chapter 2); "warning signs", of psychiatric disorders (Chapter 3); some of the biology of psychiatric disorders (Chapter 6); basic principles underpinning psychiatric treatment (Chapter 7); categories of psychiatric medications (Chapter 8); specific psychotherapies (Chapter 9); brain stimulation methods used to treat psychiatric disorders (Chapter 10); and past and  unfolding trends in psychiatry, including trends pertaining to diagnosis and treatment (Chapter 14).  In concluding Chapter 15, Zorumski and Rubin ponder optimistically the future of psychiatry, with discourse extending to comment on the plasticity of the human brain, and on neurogenesis.

Without intent to be churlish, critics may caution that Zorumski and Rubin, in their substantive writing endeavors, paint intellectually with a relatively wide brush notable for showing general features (rather than revealing fine scientific details).

But the intellectually diligent exploration undertaken by Zorumski and Rubin of the field of psychiatry is noteworthy for its overall instructiveness and informativeness.

The writing efforts of Zorumski and Rubin, in style and substance both, fit lay readers particularly well.

The evident expertise of Zorumski and Rubin, with regard to explaining some of what is known and some of what is not known about the field of psychiatry, may pique additionally the interest of many professionals, reaching to:  general, child, geriatric and forensic psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, behavioral scientists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, neurogeneticists, neurobiologists, neuroepidemiologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatric nurses, social workers, neuropathologists, primary care doctors, emergency room doctors, internists, cardiologists, pharmacologists, pharmacists, medical sociologists, and bioethicists.


© 2010 Leo Uzych


Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.


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