first chapter, entitled ‘the spread of diagnostic culture’, starts with the provocative statement that each year in Western countries, around a quarter of the population will suffer with a mental disorder. Should we interpret this as evidence for the progress of psychiatry in identifying and treating mental illnesses that have always existed? Alternatively, might it be the case that modern life somehow creates new conditions, or social pathologies? Brinkmann argues that a third, more fundamental explanation is needed: the development over recent years of what he calls ‘diagnostic cultures’. Increasingly, psychiatric diagnoses have become the lens through which people in Western societies understand ourselves and our suffering. They have substantially displaced religious and moral conceptions, and have also come to play an important role in our bureaucracies and our broader social arrangements. Partly, Brinkmann argues, this has been driven from above by those with a vested interest in these explanations, for example psychiatrists and drug companies. However, he also contends that citizens themselves are increasingly pushing for ‘pathologisation from below’, seeking diagnostic explanations for the various problems that we encounter in our lives.