2012 Book Prize Awarded to Richard Noll
The biennial Cheiron Book Prize for 2012 has been awarded to Richard Noll for his outstanding book, American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox (Harvard University Press, 2011). During the first three decades of the twentieth century, up to half of all individuals admitted to mental hospitals were diagnosed with dementia praecox, a terrible stigma considered synonymous with hopelessness and lifelong institutionalization. Noll traces the rise and fall of the concept of dementia praecox, from its inception by the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin in 1896 through its proliferation in early 20th-century North American psychiatry and its rapid disappearance in the 1920’s, when it was replaced by the term schizophrenia.
The story that Noll tells is not only well documented but also highly readable. His engaging narrative should attract readers at many levels, from undergraduate students of psychology and history to the most seasoned clinicians and scientists. It provides not only rich detail about the careers of the many psychiatrists and psychologists who contributed to the development of the concept, but also an original analysis of how diagnostic labels can change nosology and treatment options for mental patients. In light of current debates about the diagnoses and criteria to be included in DSM-5, this book is timely. We hope it will add an awareness of historical contingency to ongoing conversations about diagnostic utility in psychiatry and psychotherapy.
Committee Members: Kenneth D. Feigenbaum (Chairperson), David Devonis, Ingrid Farreras, Ellen Herman, David K. Robinson