The first Experience Sampling (ESM) studies of psychopathological subjects were undertaken 10 years ago. Enthusiasm was strong and necessary in order to overcome the problems inherent with time sampling of ill individuals as well as technical difficulties. Doubt by the researchers themselves, scepticism by colleagues and critique from grant review committees marked the daily life of these early studies. The critical refrain rang: ‘Schizophrenics will not comply, the beep is too startling for anxious people, and heroin addicts are too inaccessible’, etc. Gradually, as the data proved worthwhile, confidence grew. ESM was found to work not only across a range of disorders from childhood to old age but also in differing cultural and social settings. As a result, the authors in this volume have created an essentially new data set, that supplements understanding of how psychopathology is actually experienced and lived.
A book about the effect of time and place on mental illness may seem strangely out of place today, a time when psychiatry has placed its hopes almost exclusively on classification and anatomical or physiological explanations of mental phenomena, with the thereby fitting pharmacological interventions. Accordingly, we feel some haste. There is so much to do, so many good arguments must be formulated and tested to shake psychiatry out of its carefully crafted lounge chair of diagnostic comfort, and come again into contact with its patients.