According to popular belief, mental illness is often associated with extreme manifestations of psychiatric affliction: someone talking to herself alone in a corner; a chronically depressed individual who spends all day in bed; the homeless person who, in the middle of the summer, wears a heavy coat and rubber boots and pushes a shopping cart full of junk though the streets; the girl weighing only 30 kg who refuses to eat; and so on. Although these may be particularly obvious examples of mental illness - diagnosed by the renowned DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) as depression, schizophrenia, aneroxia nervosa, etc. - there are more widespread forms of mental illness which are less evident and involve inflexibilities of the mind that prevent one from forming satisfying relationships, make one feel inadequate and in some way lacking, that stop one from thinking that life may change, that lead one to think that unhappiness is inevitable and that other people are only a source of distress, pain, and humiliation. This book addresses mental illness from a subjective point of view and identifies the fundamental elements through which there emerge modes of thought and belief that make it difficult for us to be spontaneous and live fully in the present. The text deals with the anguish of living (difficulties in primary relationships, inner conflicts, traumas, lack of affection) and the ensuing consequences for health and psychic well-being.
Gerardo Amadei teaches Dynamic Psychology and Psychopathology at the Catholic University in Milan.