Thomas Stephen Szasz (April 15, 1920 – September 8, 2012) was a psychiatrist and academic. He was a libertarian. In 1961 Szasz's third and most well known book, The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, was published. Szasz died when he was 92.
Szasz was born in Budapest in Hungary to Jewish parents. He grew up speaking German and Hungarian. He also spoke French. In 1938 Szasz moved with his family to the United States. He studied medicine at the University of Cincinnati. However, he was more interested in politics and philosophy. In 1956 Szasz became a professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York in Syracuse.
Szasz was a heretic in psychiatry. This means that his opinions were very different to the ideas generally accepted within psychiatry. He said that psychiatry is a pseudoscience. He compared it to religion. In Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry, Szasz argued that schizophrenia is a symbol that is 'worshipped' by psychiatrists in the same way that Christians worship Christ. He said that mental illness is not an illness of the brain but "problems of living". People described Szasz as being 'anti psychiatry'. In response to this Szasz wrote a book called Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared. He believed that mental hospitals are like prisons.
He argued that "death control", or the right to killing oneself, is a human right like birth control. However, he was against euthanasia by the state. Szasz did not believe that drug addiction is a disease. Instead, he thought that it is a social habit. He thought that drugs should be made legal.
- Carey, Benedict (11 September 2012). "Dr. Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist Who Led Movement Against His Field, Dies at 92" – via NYTimes.com.
- "The psychiatrist who didn't believe in mental illness – Holly Case - Aeon Essays". Aeon.
- Szasz, Thomas (1988). Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-0224-8.