Focus On: Psychological Novels

Though I’ve featured novels with psychiatric/mental illness themes before I have never dedicated an entire post to them. The human psyche is so interesting because of how fragile it truly is. Below are a selection of my favorite novels and memoirs about mental illness and those who treat it.

Dreaming for Freud by Sheila Kohler

Dreaming for Freud by Sheila Kohler

Dreaming for Freud: A Novel

A retelling of Freud’s famous Dora, Dreaming for Freud is riveting and disarming. Getting into the head of Freud and Dora puts the case in a whole new light. Plus, anything blurbed by Joyce Carol Oates and Amy Tan is good enough for me!

 

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides

Creepy, voyeuristic and impeccably written, The Virgin Suicides is an interesting representation of life after suicides. The book has all the sensuality of Sofia Coppola’s film with more story and substance.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects

Long before Gone Girl became a sensation, I picked up Sharp Objects and fell hard for Flynn’s writing. I even did a featuring her for my high school creative writing class! Sharp Objects is a mystery but with a twist, the detective suffers from a mental illness. As the mystery unfolds you begin to realize the book is much more an unraveling of the narrator’s mystery than it is a solving of a crime.

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

Sybil

I’ve spoken elsewhere about this novel, but it’s hold on psychology warranted a mention. Every Psych 101 student hears about the strange Sybil case and learns to debate diagnoses by going through its rocky history.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar

Last but certainly not least is the book that is beloved by high school and college girls everywhere. Plath captures the frenzy and despair of being young and suffering in her remarkable prose. Every time I read this novel I find myself discovering new meanings and nuances — on my top ten favorite books of all time!

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Book Review: Sybil Exposed

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan

Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan

It’s no secret that I love psychology — pop or otherwise. After Professor Levine‘s abnormal psychology class I began to thing more critically about the books I had once love (Girl, Interrupted, Prozac Nation). Chief among the offenders was Sybil. A classic story of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) it sparked a craze that led the American Psychological Association to add the diagnosis to the DSM.

In Sybil Exposed Debbie Nathan looks into the science behind the book and makes some shocking discoveries. The real story of abuse may be more violent and underhanded than the story presented in Sybil. Dr. Wilbur injected Shirley (the real name of Sybil) with “truth serum” many times a week. The substance is shown to cause hallucinations, nausea, excessive sleep and is only recommended for a maximum of three doses. This drug in combination with the others Dr. Wilbur prescribed for Shirley kept her from pursuing any life independent from therapy.

Nathan presents the story from three different perspectives: Shirley, Dr. Wilbur and Flora Rheta Schreiber. By doing so she is able to create a story that parallels the fragmentation of Sybil’s creation.

Rating: 4/5

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