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Alumna Sarah Fay's (PhD '13) memoir, Pathological: The True Story of Six Misdiagnoses, to be published March 15

Jan 28, 2022
Pathological book cover

Sarah Fay's (PhD 2013) memoir Pathological: The True Story of Six Misdiagnoses will be published by HarperCollins on March 15, 2022. From Sarah:


It’s partly my story of being diagnosed with six different mental illnesses starting when I was twelve and partly a journalistic exposé of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatry’s “bible,” the book from which all mental health diagnoses come. 

There’s already quite a buzz. Pathological received a starred Kirkus review and will be reviewed by the New York Times in March. 

Since graduating from Michigan, I’ve become an author and activist. My writing appears in many publications, including LongreadsThe New York TimesThe AtlanticTime Magazine, The Michigan Quarterly Review, The New RepublicThe American ScholarBookforum, BOMBThe Iowa ReviewThe Rumpus, The MillionsMcSweeney’s, The Believer, and The Paris Review, where I served as an advisory editor. My essays have been chosen as a Notable Mention in Best American Essays and nominated for Pushcart Prizes. I am the recipient of the Hopwood Award for Literature as well as grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, Yaddo, the Center for Book Arts, the Poetry Center of Chicago, the Puffin Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. I have an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English Literary Studies. My scholarly research is in cultural studies, specifically the influence of the interview on American arts and letters. I am currently on faculty in the English department at Northwestern University. I’m also the founder of Pathological: The Movement (, a public awareness campaign devoted to making people aware of the unreliability and invalidity of DSM diagnoses and the dangers of identifying with an unproven mental illness. For more, visit


Advanced Praise for Pathological:

“In this brilliant and excruciating memoir, through careful reporting and exquisite analysis, Fay takes on the myriad ways in which women's minds, not simply our bodies, have become a marketplace for trendy and dangerous ideas about mental health. This book is a triumph of the spirit and the flesh for a woman who since the age of twelve has been fighting, against all odds, not only to survive, but to live.”

—Eliza Griswold, author of Amity and Prosperity, Pulitzer Prize 2018

“Pathological is the best book I've read in many years. Masterfully written, distinctively researched, and deeply humane, it joins our finest literature on medicine and psychiatry and the eternal riddle we call our minds. Fay’s artful work is pleasingly unclassifiable: call it medical memoir; mental health thriller; comic punctuation primer; DSM and Big Pharma smackdown. I’ll just call it genius. It’s also contrarian, controversial, and beautifully, validly angry. If you or anyone you love has spent time in the mental health industrial complex (or, cauldron)—buy this book now and read it.”

—Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

“We urgently need to think about our mental and emotional pain and distress in a more loving, nuanced, and intelligent way. ‘Pathological’ is a major contribution towards achieving that - a necessary and important book.”

—Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions

"Sarah Fay has written one of the most compelling memoirs I have read in ages. Pathological is a must-read for anyone who has been through the roller coaster that is the mental illness industry in America. Fay creates a work of art that entertains as much as it informs; if this were a movie, it would be the sort of documentary that contains every mode from romantic comedy to art-house film to thriller in one. The prose is so electric, incisive, witty, irreverent, devastating, sparkling! Whether she is riffing on the mechanics of English grammar, confronting the DSM in full-on unapologetic manifesto-mode, or winding us through the ups and downs of a very fully-lived life, Sarah Fay has created a masterpiece that is a true original on every level."

—Porochista Khakpour, author of Sick: A Memoir

“Pathological powerfully blends autobiographical experiences with insightful critiques of the DSM, showing its simultaneous inevitability and fundamental flaws. It also reveals the defects in current psychotherapeutic and drug treatments that rely on DSM diagnoses. Her story will greatly interest anyone who has felt they might have some mental illness, that is, virtually everyone.”

—Allan Horwitz, author of DSM: A History of Psychiatry’s Bible

“An utterly unique memoir written with rare immediacy about the consequences of the language of psychiatric diagnosis. In Pathological, Fay beautifully describes navigating the uncertainty of six mental health misdiagnoses and brilliantly unpacks the dangers of labeling with a mental illness in the face of the complexities of our mental and emotional lives. Brave, heartbreaking, and inspiring, Pathological is a necessary book.”

—Jen Percy, author of Demon Camp: The Strange and Terrible Saga of a Soldier's Return from War

“What a remarkable and moving and thought-provoking book Sarah Fay has written. Part illness memoir, part attack on the DSM, part punctuation guide, Pathological is unique. From the misuse of the colon to misdiagnoses of the colon, Fay shows how our attempts to order the universe and our minds has caused at least as much harm as good. A uniquely human and humane book.”

—DT Max, author of The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery



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