National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Book Review: Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional by Dr. Dale Archer
Crown Archetype (2012), $25
By Jessica Friedel, NAMI Communications Intern
Although Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who has been an expert in his field for over two decades, his new book Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional, proves that he has maintained an ability to provide unencumbered, jargon saturated advice. A New York Times best seller, the book reexamines what it means for a trait to be deemed as weak or negative and turns it on its head to view it as something that can be positive and productive.
Some of the traits Dr. Archer mentions are: being adventurous (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD) being shy (social anxiety disorder), being hyper-alert (generalized anxiety disorder), and having high energy (bipolar disorder).
Dr. Archer believes that today’s society is often too quick to medicate people when in fact those people are more than capable of harnessing and applying their idiosyncrasies to create perfectly functioning lifestyles. This is not to say medication is not beneficial to many people, however. For many, medication can serve as important component in improving the quality of life.
Archer strings the book together with witty anecdotes so that the reader enjoys the novel while simultaneously gaining a new perspective. His words flow on the page, making the book a quick and easy read and uplifting by encouraging the reader to have a more positive mindset. He understands the negative effect of some connotations people have towards mental illnesses and attempts to break those connections and reclassify the disorders with positive, encouraging words.
Overall, the book cleverly puts a new twist on how we think about certain personality traits and anyone who reads it will take away an encouraging message. Archer’s convictions and message are strong, and he is on a mission to change the vernacular and in turn the mindset of the field of mental health: instead of viewing some traits as liabilities, let’s look at them as hidden strengths.