An Undercover Journey into the Heart of Madness

December 27, 2019

(Undark) – The moment her illness was deemed neurological, ”as in physical, in the body, real,” rather than psychiatric, “in the mind and therefore somehow less real,” the quality of her care drastically improved, Cahalan writes in her new book, “The Great Pretender.” Sympathy and understanding replaced the detached attitude that had defined her treatment as a mental patient, “as if a mental illness were my fault, whereas a physical illness was something unearned, something ‘real,’” she writes. Cahalan, a journalist, recovered from her brief psychosis, but the distinction between physical and mental illness continued to perplex her. “What does mental illness mean, anyway, and why would one affliction be more ‘real’ than another?” she asks. These questions form the backbone of “The Great Pretender.”