Psychiatry for Beginners

Psychological Medicine: A Short Introduction to Psychiatry. By Desmond Curran, M.B., F.R.C.P., D.P.M., and Maurice Partridge, M.A., D.M., D.P.M. Fourth edition. (Pp. 407+ viii; illustrated. 21s.) Edinburgh and London: E. and S. Livingstone Ltd. 1955.

British Journal of Medicine, 14 April 1956, p. 144.

The subtitle of this well-known textbook, "A Short Introductionto Psychiatry," is on the way towards ceasing to be applicable. With its 407 pages the book is not so very short; and the fourth edition is larger by over 150 pages than the third. One hesitates to say that the original purpose of the book is being lost sight of; and yet it must be admitted that the medical student has great need of the clear and pithy statement of uncontroversial facts such as, Dr. Curran's first edition supplied so admirably. The expansion is somewhat greater than is shown by increase in number of pages, since the section on psychiatry in wartime in the third edition is omitted. Nevertheless, good use has been made of the extra space now provided. The exposition remains as clear as ever; and the student who comes fresh to the subject is not bemused by vague concepts, flabby argument, and an outrageous jargon, of a kind which we meet all too often in psychiatry. The writing is simple,  unpretentious, and with agreeable touches of humour, and the knowledge imparted is solid and reliable.

    A few criticisms may be made. The classification of defectives by degree of educability is more important than the legal definitions of such terms as "idiot" and "imbecile." The discussion on barbiturates is muddled by the mixing of official and proprietary names. The order in which the indications for E.C.T. are placed might mislead. Errors are rare (but see dosage of scoline, p. 378). These should not count in the balance against the general excellence of the work. The introduction, and the chapters, on obsessional states, hysterical states, and " peripheral psychiatrv," are particularly good.