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Book Review

Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry, 5th ed

Thomas N. Wise, MD

Published: August 15, 2011

Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry, 5th ed

by Donald W. Black, MD, and Nancy C. Andreasen, MD, PhD. American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc, Washington, DC, 2011, 717 pages, $69.00 (paper), $99.00 (hardcover).

Medical textbooks have a long tradition that may have begun in ancient Egypt with the classic papyri that recorded empirical observations on burn care, wound management, gastrointestinal ailments, and congestive heart failure.1 Modern textbooks of psychiatry perhaps began with Griesinger’s 1867 text2 that viewed psychiatry as a legitimate field of medicine with a strong organic substrate. Cheyne’s The English Malady, a monograph on severe health anxiety, antedated the new DSM-5 diagnosis of illness anxiety disorder.3 Modern textbooks go through multiple iterations, as demonstrated by Osler’s The Principles and Practice of Medicine, which had 24 editions.4 Sadly, such revered texts are commonly ignored by medical students during their third-year clerkships. The use of online information and a focus on multiple-choice examinations that aid in national board examinations make the purchase of such volumes less common than in the past. This is indeed a shame, since Psychiatry is far more than a compendium of multiple-choice questions.

The fifth edition of the Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry documents the broad range of psychiatric topics in a readable yet comprehensive manner. It demonstrates the necessity of a relatively short (717 pages), yet comprehensive, review of psychiatry. This textbook is not a summary of a larger text but an organized volume in itself. Each edition has been outstanding and kept up with new findings, while retaining the basic elements of our specialty.

The book is composed of 3 sections. Chapter 1 of the first section discusses the rationale and methods of psychiatric classification. The next chapter reviews the basic aspects of interviewing and assessment. It includes psychopathologic phenomena, which is useful for students, residents, and seasoned clinicians. The final chapter of the first section outlines the basic elements of microanatomy, neurotransmitters, and genetics. Throughout the book, the judicious inclusion of tables and figures enhances the ease of use. The publisher has utilized a two-tone print to emphasize topical sections, which makes reading easier.

The second section discusses psychiatric disorders. Each chapter is organized around issues of etiology, assessment, and clinical management and offers an efficient review of the diagnostic category. Tables with "key points to remember" are included for each disorder, which is useful for studying. In each chapter in this section, the figures and tables are especially well done for quick reference and study.

The final section of the textbook discusses "special topics." This section reviews psychiatric emergencies, child psychiatry, sleep disorders, and legal issues, finally progressing to broad discussions of treatments including psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and electroconvulsive therapy. A glossary of terms completes the book and makes it even more valuable.

Reviewing the content of this textbook cannot do justice to the style of writing that both authors demonstrate. Who should own such a book? All medical students should be required to utilize a "real" textbook, not just a brief review of our field, and this text would be my first choice. Residents may also wish to have the book for overviews of the field. Finally, seasoned clinicians would do well to review the volume to ascertain what new knowledge is available since they last purchased such a volume. Both the size and lucid writing style make this textbook easy to read from cover to cover, which cannot be said of many other multiauthored texts. I look forward to many future editions.


1. Trevisanato SI. Six medical papyri describe the effects of Santorini’s volcanic ash, and provide Egyptian parallels to the so-called biblical plagues. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(1):187-190. PubMed doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2006.01.008

2. Griesinger W. Mental Pathology and Therapeutics. 2nd ed. London, England: New Sydenham Society; 1867. doi:10.1037/12213-000

3. Cheyne G. The English Malady, 1733. London, England: Routledge; 1991. Porter R, ed. Tavistock Classics in the History of Psychiatry.

4. Christian H, ed. Introduction. In: The Principles and Practice of Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: Appleton-Century; 1942:1-2.

Thomas N. Wise, MD

Author affiliations: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland. Potential conflicts of interest: None reported.

Volume: 72

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