Advances in Psychiatry

Review of Modern Trends in Psychological Medicine, 1948. Edited by Noel G. Harris, M.D., F.R.C.P., D.P.M. (Pp. 450; 25 figures). London: Butterworth and Co. 1948.

British Medical Journal, 20 August 1949, p. 426


The editor undoubtedly had a difficult task in choosing the subjects to be covered in an account of modem trends in psychiatry, for these are diverse and chaotic. Nevertheless, much of the interest this work will arouse will come from the fact that psychiatry has so many growing points, for the first time included in a comprehensive book.

   Psychiatry is changing under our eyes, and what seems to be a dominant trend to-day may in twenty years be looked on as a blind alley, an eccentricity of our age which led nowhere. Dr. Harris says in his introduction that the most important requirement in psychological medicine is a narrowing of the gap between this and other branches of medicine. Yet an exactly opposite view could equally well be taken. Fissiparous tendencies get stronger rather than weaker with the years. The gap between psycho-analysis and the older psychiatry has widened since the days when Bleuler formulated the concept of schizophrenia, and he and his collaborator Jung used psycho-analytic ideas in the interpretation of psychotic symptoms. Psycho-analysis itself is splitting into warring camps, and the American school, which attributes the cause of psychiatric syndromes almost entirely to "sociogenetic " factors, has moved far from the position taken by Freud and still maintained by his more orthodox followers. The psychodynamic school branches and proliferates, and has now invaded industrial medicine, sociology, anthropology, and at last politics, economics, and statecraft. Reflections of these developments are found, as is proper, in this book.

   In all, six chapters are given to psychosomatic medicine, the physiology of emotion, constitution, causation, electrophysiology, and physical treatment. The remaining thirteen chapters are allotted to social and psychodynamic aspects. As in all such collections of contributions from many authors, some chapters are excellent and others less meritorious, some are informative and factual and others speculative and dogmatic. The opinions voiced in some sections are in direct contradiction to those expressed in others. The reader may make his own choice. No doubt the views he adopts will be determined less by rational than by emotional considerations, but, whatever they are, if he looks diligently he will find authoritative support.