Anatomy of an Epidemic

  • by Robert Whitaker
  • Narrated by Ken Kliban
  • 14 hrs and 0 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Every day, 1,100 adults and children are added to the government disability rolls because they have become newly disabled by mental illness, with this epidemic spreading most rapidly among our nations children. What is going on?
Anatomy of an Epidemic challenges listeners to think through that question themselves. First, Whitaker investigates what is known today about the biological causes of mental disorders. Do psychiatric medications fix chemical imbalances in the brain, or do they, in fact, create them? Researchers spent decades studying that question, and by the late 1980s, they had their answer. Listeners will be startled - and dismayed - to discover what was reported in the scientific journals.
Then comes the scientific query at the heart of this book: During the past 50 years, when investigators looked at how psychiatric drugs affected long-term outcomes, what did they find? Did they discover that the drugs help people stay well? Function better? Enjoy good physical health? Or did they find that these medications, for some paradoxical reason, increase the likelihood that people will become chronically ill, less able to function well, more prone to physical illness?
This is the first book to look at the merits of psychiatric medications through the prism of long-term results. By the end of this review of the outcomes literature, listeners are certain to have a haunting question of their own: Why have the results from these long-term studies - all of which point to the same startling conclusion - been kept from the public?


What the Critics Say

"The timing of Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic, a comprehensive and highly readable history of psychiatry in the United States, couldn’t be better." (
"Anatomy of an Epidemic offers some answers, charting controversial ground with mystery-novel pacing." (
"Whitaker tenderly interviews children and adults who bear witness to the ravages of mental illness, and testify to their newly found 'aliveness' when freed from the prison of mind-numbing drugs." (Daniel Dorman, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The author does not use a fair scientific approach

I tend to agree that anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are overly prescribes, particularly since the effects are not well understood. I also agree that drugs are used when cognitive behavioral techniques would be successful (but not make much money for drug companies). I further agree that drug companies have not uncommonly created unfair pro-drug testing regimes. BUT the author makes conclusions that don???t seem to be supported by any data and weaves a deeper conspiracy than the evidence seems to support. Repeating the same evidence is not more evidence. Also the author makes the key mistake seen in such books; Assume the hypothesis then search for data that supports the hypothesis. This is just not how real science is done. So if you read this, take it with a big grain of salt.
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- Michael "I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read."

Biased Oversimplification

Unfortunately, the truth is much more complex than either the mental health medication industry or Robert Whitaker want us to believe. While the causes and treatments of the astonishing growing rates of mental health problems is a very important topic to examine, Whitaker commits the same errors as the pharmaceutical industry, just in the opposite direction, by intentionally omitting any data or study that contradicts his conclusions. In addition, with the exception of a one sentence dismissal, he completely ignores vast areas of multiple contributing factors that have had devasting effects on mental health in our modern society.
This book does help to raise some important questions, but it is unfortunate that it is done in such an obviously biased manner as it causes one to question the conclusions it reaches. The causes of mental health problems are much more complex than Whitaker is willing to admit. Therefore, the evaluation and treatment of mental helath problems deserves a more honest and multifaceted approach than Whitaker is able to acknowledge with this biased oversimplification of this important topic.
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- William

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-18-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios