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Stranger Than Fiction

When Our Minds Betray Us

Marc D. Feldman, M.D., and Jacqueline M. Feldman, M.D.
With Roxenne Smith, M.A.

  • ISBN 978-0-88048-930-0
  • Item #8930

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Stranger Than Fiction: When Our Minds Betray Us is a spellbinding invitation into the world of the human mind that will change our perceptions of mental illness forever. Despite the growing body of scientific discoveries into the nature of the human mind, the stigma attached to mental illness remains deeply entrenched in the general public's consciousness, the product of inaccurate information and centuries of mystery.

In a simple conversational style, two distinguished clinicians, Drs. Marc and Jacqueline Feldman, discuss the complexities of mental disorders and their treatment. Using the metaphor of the lie of the mind, a disorder in which a person's thinking becomes unintentionally distorted, the authors approach mental illness from the perspective that these disorders are merely extreme variations of universally shared thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Stranger Than Fiction removes the artificial division separating the mentally ill from the general public and demystifies symptoms that often seem bizarre.

On this journey through the human psyche, the Feldmans use vivid, enlightening, and often poignant cases from their own professional experience that dramatically illustrate how psychiatrists help patients liberate themselves from the mental conditions that imprison them. The reader is invited into therapy sessions and hospital rooms and receives an insider's view of the difficulties that each therapist confronts when treating disturbed patients. The authors show how clinical decisions often rely more on educated hunches than medical certainties and reveal that the practice of psychiatry is as much an art as it is a science.

After finishing this unforgettable book, readers will better understand the true nature of mental illness and witness the joy that even the smallest triumph produces in patients and caregivers alike.


  • Introduction: what is a lie of the mind? Phobias: fear itself. Somatoform disorders: what does my body have to do with it? Dissociative disorders: who am I today? False memory syndrome: accurate recollections or implanted histories? Delusions: Miss Annie's bucket and other unrealities. Hallucinations: seeing is believing. Mass hysteria: witch hunts and social contagion. Final thoughts: Treatment for lies of the mind: learning from the past, catapulting into the future. References and suggested readings. Index.

About the Authors

Marc D. Feldman, M.D., is Vice Chair for Clinical Services in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He is also Medical Director of the UAB Center for Psychiatric Medicine and is a recipient of an Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Jacqueline M. Feldman, M.D., Director of the Division of Public Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is also Executive Director of the UAB Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center and Medical Director of the UAB Community Psychiatry Program. She has received the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Stranger Than Fiction will be useful to people who want to learn more about mental illness, especially in its more dramatic forms. The book will provide perspective as well as information to family members, friends, and other acquainted with people who have a mental illness, and patients themselves may find it serviceable.—Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

Stranger Than Fiction is a well-written and researched presentation of a variety of complex and psychopathologies, both individual and group. With excellent case material, buttressed by an easy and understandable flow that could be a source of intriguing and interesting reading to laypersons and professionals, it is packed with keen observations. It lends itself nicely to reading in segments, if necessary. Definitions, theories, medications, and references are all current and represent reasonably available resources. Brief tribute also is due the American Psychiatric Press, publisher in recent years of many readable volumes of increasing content quality and pleasing design. Stranger Then Fiction is commendable in every regard.—JAMA

The Feldmans offer a masterful review of the false memory syndrome, but the chapter does not stop there. They continue with sections on facilitated communication, satanic ritual abuse, and John Mack's alien abductions—topics that belong together. . . . Because Stranger Than Fiction is written for the general public, people will learn about the false memory syndrome who might not read a whole book on the topic. I highly recommend it. . . . The general public will greatly enjoy this book, especially the many fascinating case examples.—False Memory Syndrome Newsletter

Using vivid examples, Drs. Feldman clearly depict how the mind can distort reality, especially for those who suffer from mental illness. Their compelling use of these cases helps break down the walls of stigma that continue to beset diseases of the brain. These walls must come down if we are to ensure that we thoroughly research and properly treat these disabling symptoms.—U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici

It is no secret that mental illness can strike anyone at any time. Most of us know someone who has suffered from the devastating and many times debilitating effects. I applaud the authors of this book for helping to open the door on mental illness. This thoughtful book will help to break down the barriers of misunderstanding, fear, and contempt that many people feel when they hear the word 'mental illness.' As a United States Senator who has worked to ensure non-discriminatory health care coverage for persons suffering with mental illness, I believe this book is an important addition to our understanding of these disorders.—U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby

The authors of Stranger Than Fiction are masterful in their use of literary examples to illustrate what people feel and see when their inner emotional worlds become too intense to fit in with ordinary reality. They have a very evident gift for classifying and expressing in plain, down-to-earth language these otherwise unfathomable states of mind and the symptoms they produce.—Jules Siegel, Author of The Journey of the Absurd

We all have our moments of struggling to master the same disturbing thoughts and feelings that seem to envelop those with mental illness. Stranger Than Fiction is required reading not only for psychiatric consumers and their families, but for anyone who has sought to understand how our minds can go awry. This vital book manages to be not only a work of outstanding scholarship, but also the intimate diary of two caring physicians, sensitively portraying mental illness in very human terms.—Rogene W. Parris, Founding President, Alabama Alliance for the Mental Ill

Stranger Than Fiction does an excellent job of describing for the lay reader how the mind is affected by the brain disorders we call mental illness. The information provided to those who are seeking care from professionals and within support groups is particularly strong. I salute Drs. Feldman as exemplary professionals making a difference in the lives of individuals and families who struggle with these disorders.—Annie V. Saylor, Ph.D., Past President, Alabama Alliance for the Mentally Ill

This is a very timely book. Although designed to acquaint the intelligent lay reader with selected issues of vital importance to psychiatry, it should prove useful to even the most experienced mental health professional. In recent years, certain segments of the community of mental health professionals have brought us back to times reminiscent of the Middle Ages. Those of us who though that we in our field had gone beyond superstition, hysteria, and group delusion have observed colleagues involving themselves in just such self-deceptions or, as the authors choose to call them, 'lies of the mind.' Particular focus is given to multiple personality disorder, false memory syndrome, and group and mass hysteria. Stranger Than Fiction is intelligently written and well documented with valuable references. It is balanced, sober, and richly displays the depth of the authors' knowledge of their subject. Many publications in these controversial areas are so filled with passion that one can only wonder about the author's objectivity. This is not the case here. Furthermore, the authors provide many poignant clinical vignettes that substantiate their points and add significant dimension to their book.Drs. Feldman have provided us with a valuable contribution that, I hope, will play some role in bringing sanity and reason to field whose reputation has suffered formidably in recent years because of the presence within its midst of a significant number of therapists who share with and induce in their patients 'lies of the mind.'.—Richard A. Gardner, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, New York

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