The Great Pretender

The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

by Susannah Cahalan

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9781538715284
  • 9781538715260
From "one of America's most courageous young journalists" (NPR) and the author of the blockbuster #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Brain on Fire comes a propulsive narrative history investigating the 50-year-old mystery behind a dramatic experiment that changed the course of modern medicine.

For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness--how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people--sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society--went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry's labels. Forced to remain inside until they'd "proven" themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan's watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.

But, as Cahalan's explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?

  • Grand Central Publishing; November 2019
  • ISBN: 9781538715260
  • Read online, or download in secure ePub format
  • Title: The Great Pretender
  • Author: Susannah Cahalan
  • Imprint: Grand Central Publishing
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9781538715284
  • 9781538715260

In The Press

"Breathtaking! Cahalan's brilliant, timely, and important book reshaped my understanding of mental health, psychiatric hospitals, and the history of scientific research. A must-read for anyone who's ever been to therapy, taken a brain-altering drug, or wondered why mental patients were released in droves in the 1980s. And a thrilling, eye-opening read even for those who thought they weren't affected by the psychiatric world."—Ada Calhoun, author of St. Marks Is Dead and Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give


About The Author

Susannah Cahalan is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a memoir about her struggle with a rare autoimmune disease of the brain. She writes for the New York Post. Her work has also been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American Magazine, Glamour, Psychology Today, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9781538715284
  • 9781538715260