Sunday 7 October 2018

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Book Review)

This is a difficult book to digest. Like any good book, it really makes you think. What defines mental illness, and all the different kinds?

Sure, as the title suggests, this book focuses mostly on Psychopathy, but in so doing, it touches on things like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a range of others. Through a loosely related collection of anecdotes, the author explores these mental disorders and more, along with the evolution of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). He doesn't really present you with any conclusions of his own, although it's fairly clear that he thinks that, while mental illness, and psychopathy, in particular, IS a thing, over-diagnosis and labelling is a big problem. For example, did you know that there's a huge group of people out there who believe that childhood bipolar disorder simply does not exist, and that it's impossible for anyone under the age of 18 to develop it?

The anecdotes are entertaining, and often freaky, but most importantly, they provide much food for thought. If you or anyone you know has ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, or you suspect you might have one yourself, you should read this book.

My Review: 4 / 5 Stars

This is a story about madness. It all starts when journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist. She and several colleagues have recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail, and Jon is challenged to solve the mystery behind it. As he searches for the answer, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness. Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he's sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths. Jon learns from him how to ferret out these high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power . . . Combining Jon's trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is a deeply honest book unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

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