I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

9 Jun

An interesting piece in The New Republic on Joanne Greenberg’s famous book, I Never Promise Your a Rose Garden.

Author Kelsey Osgood discusses the skepticism expressed by many psychiatrists over the book’s story of a young woman cured of schizophrenia:

“Greenberg claimed full recovery, and many psychiatric professionals worried that this would inspire a false and dangerous hope. Schizophrenics, they said, simply cannot recover. German psychiatrist Emil Kraeplin, who coined the early version of the diagnosis “dementia praecox,” described the disease as “terminal.” The introduction of Thorazine in the 1950s offered some reprieve from the symptoms, but the best a schizophrenic could hope for was what Swiss psychiatrist Eugene Bleuler called “recovery with defect.” Doctors wrote articles that evaluated the novel as if it were a case history and re-diagnosed her autobiographical protagonist as a hysteric. In The New York Times an article headline read: “Schizophrenia in Popular Books: A Study Finds Too Much Hope.” One psychiatrist even repeatedly called Greenberg at her home to try to force her to admit she had been misdiagnosed.”

Osgood argues that the book fell out of popularity because it presented a too optimistic picture of schizophrenia. I have to admit that when I read the book and saw the movie it inspired, I was very skeptical of its portrayal of a cure. However, I read the book decades ago, before I became a psychologist. While I have done some research on schizotypal thinking as a personality trait, I am not a clinical psychologist and cannot claim any great expertise of the treatment of schizophrenia. So I will reserve judgement for the time being.


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