50 Signs of Mental Illness Member Book Review
May 2005

Just published in April, by Yale University Press, is a new book entitled 50 Signs of Mental Illness, by James W. Hicks, M.D. A forensic psychiatrist and director of clinical services at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center in NYC, Dr. Hicks is also assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU.

Fifty Signs is much like a layperson’s DSM-IV manual; an easy-to-read reference book which de-mystifies mental illness. Each chapter begins with a short, first-person description of a “sign” or symptom of mental illness, in alphabetical order. Examples range from deceitfulness to delusions, panic to paranoia, self-mutilation to psychosis, memory loss to mania.

Not only is this book very inclusive, the author aims to be reassuring and points out that sometimes symptoms occur which may be normal responses to stressful situations. It also provides the reader with a psychiatrist’s diagnostic tools to determine when the symptoms become critical, explaining how and when to seek help and treatment. The book is highly practical for looking honestly at signs of mental illness in oneself or loved ones.

The end result is a book that’s profoundly important. It enables anyone who has had questions or doubts about his or her own mental health to find clear and non-threatening information. It may even possibly compel a relative who has been in denial, as a first natural response to disturbing behaviors of a loved one, to actually seek help. Not only this, but here is direct access to the kind of information that one pays psychiatrists hundreds of dollars to tell us in an hour long session. Although the authoritative advice of a competent psychiatrist should not be underestimated, this book is a valuable stepping-stone on the road to diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately recovery.

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