Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Edward Shorter


Division One: Consultation/Liaison Psychiatry

Contact Information

History of Medicine
150 College Street
Toronto, ON M5S 3E2
Room: Ste. 83FandG




Edward Shorter, PhD, FRSC is Jason A. Hannah Professor of the History of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and is cross-appointed Professor of Psychiatry. His past research interests include a two-volume history of psychosomatic illness, “From Paralysis to Fatigue” (1992) and “From the Mind Into the Body” (1994). Since the mid-1990s he has emerged as an internationally recognized historian of psychiatry, with numerous publications to his credit. His “History of Psychiatry” (1997) has become the standard text in the field, joined in 2005 by “A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry” and in 2009 by “Before Prozac”. This volume argues for a reassessment of diagnoses and treatments for mood and anxiety disorders that have been set aside in favour of patent-protected remedies and diagnoses promulgated by the DSM series. He further explores these themes in his latest book, “How Everyone Became Depressed: The Rise and Fall of the Nervous Breakdown” (Oxford University Press, 2013).
Shorter’s work has also resulted in fruitful collaborations with a number of distinguished clinical and research psychiatrists, including “Psychotic Depression” with Conrad Swartz (2007); “Shock Therapy” with David Healy (2007); and “Endocrine Psychiatry” (2010) with Max Fink.
Visit my blog on the Psychology Today site in connection with my latest book, “How Everyone Became Depressed”:

The book is also beginning to generate some media attention, including an interview on a US radio program, the Dr Don Show:

and a print review in The Daily Beast:

Research Interests

My research continues to focus on two themes: the history of psychiatric diagnosis (nosology) and the history of psychopharmacology and other psychiatric treatments.

Current research interests:

1. Pediatric catatonia and self-injury behaviour in autism, and the extent to which these destructive syndromes were relieved historically with ECT.
In spring 2012 I began a collaboration with Dr Lee Wachtel, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins whose clinical work focuses on treating developmentally challenged young people as director of the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Neurobehavioral Unit. Our complementary backgrounds and converging research interests led to a conference presentation which introduced the concept of autism, catatonia and psychosis as an “iron triangle” of psychopathology in children and adolescents. An expanded version of this paper has been recently published in the “Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica” and additional papers are presently in the works.

2. The early “tranquilizers” and sedative drugs, discarded for primarily non-clinical reasons

3. Melancholia as a distinctive illness in its own right, with characteristic biological markers


Faculty of Medicine, History of Medicine Program (an extra-departmental academic unit which reports directly to the Dean of Medicine)

Faculty of Arts and Science, Department of History,
Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology,

Community Work

Interest in mental-health issues is booming, especially as DSM-5 nears publication. In March the CBC Radio program IDEAS ran a 3-part series on depression and the “short and troubling history of the antidepressant” featuring several mental-health professionals and advocates. Shorter appears prominently in the first episode,
and to a lesser extent in part 2,