• A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Diagnosis (second edition)

A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Diagnosis (second edition)

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ISBN 9781915220066
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Do you need your psychiatric diagnosis? This book will help you decide.

In this second, updated edition of a best-selling title, Lucy Johnstone revisits the revolution that is underway in mental health. No one doubts that people’s distress is very real – but are they actually suffering from illnesses that need a diagnosis? In today’s world, where mental health is a crucial topic, this might seem an odd question. And yet even the authors of the diagnostic manuals are admitting that these categories are not supported by evidence. No one has been able to identify the ‘chemical imbalances’ that are said to cause distress. No one can reliably distinguish one ‘mental illness’ from another. And the more labels and pills we offer, the faster the increase in mental health problems. Something is badly wrong.

Johnstone shows that we need to change the question from ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What’s happened to you?’ Distress, even its severe forms, arises out of our lives and relationships. Narratives and personal stories show us this truth, whereas labels obscure it. The book ends with a new, hard-hitting analysis of the political, economic and social forces that drive the diagnostic model. In our increasingly competitive, unequal and fragmented world, we are all struggling. We are told the answer lies in finding the right diagnosis. We are encouraged to talk about our ‘mental health’ instead of the conditions of our lives. And increasingly, we ourselves seek out labels which reassure us that our feelings of shame, failure and difference are not our fault. Indeed, as Johnstone shows, we are not to blame. But nor will the rapid spread of diagnostic labels provide an answer. There are better ways forward. 

This book is about choice. It is about demystifying one of the most influential myths of our age and giving people the information to make up their own minds. It opens up hope and new ways forward for anyone who has been given a diagnostic label.


Series introduction
Richard Bentall and Pete Sanders​

1. What this book aims to do​

2. Psychiatric diagnosis: The current context​

3. What are the problems with psychiatric diagnosis?​

4. For and against psychiatric diagnosis in more detail​

5. The wider impact of psychiatric diagnosis​

6. The personal impact of psychiatric diagnosis​

7. Alternatives to psychiatric diagnosis – finding your own story

8. Personal stories 

9. The wider context of psychiatric diagnosis​

10. Where do we go next?

Further reading and resources

Lucy Johnstone

Dr Lucy Johnstone is a consultant clinical psychologist, author of Users and Abusers of Psychiatry (Classic editon, 2022) and co-editor of Formulation in Psychology and Psychotherapy: Making sense of people's problems (Routledge, 2nd edition 2013) and co-author with Mary Boyle of A Straight Talking Introduction to the Power Threat Meaning Framework (PCCS Books, 2020) along with a number of other chapters and articles taking a critical perspective on mental health theory and practice. She is the former Programme Director of the Bristol Clinical Psychology Doctorate and was the lead author of the 'Good practice guidelines on the use of psychological formulation' (Division of Clinical Psychology 2011.) She has worked in Adult Mental Health settings for many years. She is an experienced conference speaker, lecturer and trainer.

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Lucy Johnstone