The Social Consequences of a Diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum

It’s time to change how we think about and relate to people whose makeup is or appears to be different from the norm. Currently, the dominant way in research, practice and the general public is to think of what’s different—let’s say a biological or neurological difference—as the source of disability and difficulty, and to relate to and treat (in various ways) that biological or neurological difference. But there’s another way to go, and more and more researchers and practitioners are taking it.
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Allen Frances Seeks the “Middle Way”

On January 15, 2016, Allen Frances published an article on the Huffington Post titled  Psychiatric Medicines Are Not All Good or All Bad. The article denounces both the “medication fanatics” who prescribe psychiatric drugs when they are not needed, and the “die-hard anti-medication crusaders who try to persuade everyone, including those who really need meds, that they are globally unhelpful and globally harmful.” Dr. Frances advocates a middle ground in which people who need psychiatric drugs get them, and people who don’t, don’t.  On the face of it, this would seem a fairly non-contentious matter, but Dr. Frances’s path to this conclusion is fraught with problems which in my view warrant discussion.
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The Future of Mental Health Interview Series, Part III

The Future of Mental Health interview series continues with interviews this past week with Claudia Gold on The Silenced Child, Robert Stolorow on emotional trauma and psychoanalysis, Gayle Flanigan on Rose Hill Center, Robert Salvit on Kabbalah and spiritual healing, Susan Raeburn on group psychotherapy, Robert Whitaker on Mad in America, and Isabel Clarke on psychosis and spiritual experiences.
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Insight Forty Years Later: A Dream of Progress

In the 40 years since I was wrongly – and catastrophically – “diagnosed” and “treated,” I’ve seen one after another announcement of supposed “progress” in the “science” of understanding and treating “mental illness” come and go — first trumpeted, then with nary a mention, failing to hold their ground and falling away to the mists of time along with the people and the lives they’d ruined. People will continue to suffer and die if the public do not wake up and have the courage to act as a caring community, and stop regarding human problems as “diseases” to be “cured,” rather than as challenges that we share.
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“Is It Her Hormones?” A Case of Psychiatry Missing the Mark

The case of “Beth” depicts, almost innocently, the trials and tribulations of a well-adjusted, talented 15-year-old who developed depression, paranoia, panic attacks, and self-injurious and homicidal behavior, and “bipolar disorder” after being prescribed antidepressants, and then antipsychotics. After Beth decided – on her own – to discontinue psychotropic medications in favor of hormone therapy, she remained free of psychiatric symptoms.
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“Schizophrenia Breakthrough” – Or a Case of Ignoring the Most Important Evidence?

Last week, the headlines blared: “Schizophrenia breakthrough as genetic study reveals link to brain changes!”  We heard that our best hope for treating “schizophrenia” is to understand it at a genetic level, and that this new breakthrough would get us really started on that mission, as it showed how a genetic variation could lead to the more intense pruning of brain connections, which is often seen in those diagnosed with schizophrenia.  “For the first time, the origin of schizophrenia is no longer a complete black box,” said one (while admitting that “it’s still early days”).  The acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) described the study as “a crucial turning point in the fight against mental illness.” But is all this hype justified?
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On Soul Loss and Mental Health Services at Yale

I experienced years of soul loss both during and after my experience with mental health services at Yale – especially the fragmentation, the blocked memory, the depression and loss of my vital self. I changed so much that I became a kind of shell of myself. My radicalism, my sharp intellectual capacity, aspects of my creativity, many of my charming eccentricities, healthy emotions such as anger, my fieriness, my gutsiness, did not feel accessible anymore and slowly faded.
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And Now for Something Completely the Same:  The Latest, Greatest Breakthrough in Understanding the Biogenetic Cause of Schizophrenia

Another scientific study that ostensibly identifies a biological cause of schizophrenia has appeared and is being widely reported. So, we finally have the elusive breakthrough to understanding the biological basis of schizophrenia. Or do we? A close look at the source of all this hyperbolic language raises serious questions about such enthusiasm.
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We Need Your Help!

Mad in America, which was founded as a webzine in 2011, is now operating as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This provides us with both a new challenge, and this is the exciting part, a chance to dream big. The challenge is to raise the money to pursue our bigger visions for the future.
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A New York Times Debate: Is the ADHD Diagnosis Helpful or Harmful?

I urge parents, doctors, educators and everyone concerned with the well-being of children to take a look at the debate on ADHD presented in the Times. The series of articles makes it clear that the hard line separating ADHD-like behavior from normal childhood reactions to environmental stress or normal developmental phases is beginning to soften. The number of ADHD diagnoses in the United Sates has exploded by 300 percent since 1983.
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The CHRUSP Call to Action, and Its Significance

Various instruments of the United Nations have commented on forced treatment, or involuntary confinement, or both (for details, see Burstow, 2015a), and a number of truly critical additions to international law have materialized. Arguably, the most significant of these is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. What makes it so significant? For one thing, it is because this landmark convention puts forward nothing less than a total ban on both involuntary treatment and the involuntary confinement of people who have broken no laws.
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Breaking News! The “Cause” of “Schizophrenia” Finally “Discovered”!(?)

On January 27, 2016, a study1 was published online in the prestigious journal Nature that touted the possibility of discovering some potential biological origins of an “illness” called “schizophrenia” Subsequently, headlines across the world beamed excited proclamations of the latest breakthrough to occur in psychiatric research. The problem is, there is nothing profound about this study at all and, in fact, it is one of the least profound studies to emerge in the last few years on the topic of “schizophrenia.” It ignores the robust support that has accumulated that undermines the genetic disease model of “mental illness” and the categorical understanding of experiences falling under the umbrella term “schizophrenia.”
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Hello World! An American Nut Challenges Trump About Status of “Bull Goose Loony.” We Are #Nuts4 Global Revolution!

Europe is laughing at us. You, the whole world, laughs at us. With Trump and Sarah Palin dominating the news, and with gun-toting militants taking over an Oregon bird sanctuary, hell, we are laughing at ourselves! We do look crazy. The real question is, “What kind of nuts are we?”
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Further Evidence of the Adverse Effects of Antidepressants, and Why These Have Taken so Long to be Confirmed

When the idea that selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might make people feel suicidal first started to be discussed, I admit I was sceptical. It didn’t seem to me the drugs had much effect at all, and I couldn’t understand how a chemical substance could produce a specific thought. Because these effects did not show up in randomised controlled trials, they were dismissed and few efforts were made to study them properly. Then some large meta-analyses started to find an association between the use of modern antidepressants and suicidal thoughts and actions, especially in children.
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Inflammation and Psychosis

Many posts on this website have cited studies linking stressful life events as a causal factor in the emergence of psychosis. What science requires is a mechanism connecting psychological stressors with functional changes that drive behavior. Recent studies connect psychosis with inflammation in the brain. Thus, the studies provide a mechanism for how trauma can increase the emergence of psychosis
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The Future of Mental Health Interview Series, Part II

The Future of Mental Health interview series continues with interviews this past week with James Maddux (on positive clinical psychology), Lucy Johnstone (on critical psychiatry and psychological formulation), Michael Cornwall (on being present to “madness”), Monica Cassani (on beyond meds: everything matters), Tim Carey (on parenting skills and family mental health) and Sharna Olfman (on the science and pseudoscience of children’s mental health. Here some highlights…
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The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health: Finding Our Way in a World of Conflicting Messages

Every day we read, on the one hand, another compelling headline touting “news” of a “scientific breakthrough” that claims to have discovered the “cause” of “mental illness,” while another headline tells of researchers uncovering egregious falsification in the clinical trials of the pharmaceutical industry. The list goes on and on. Though many people report that they find medications helpful when they are in an extreme state (mostly to help them sleep ), given that there is as yet no scientific evidence confirming a specific disease/illness process underlying “mental illness,” and evidence that most if not all of the perceived effect is comparable to placebo, the fact remains that any positive effect of these meds are based on theory, while their harms are well-established.
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Why Screening Everyone for Depression is a Terrible Idea

Too many people have come to view themselves as defective and powerless to change their life situations, when this may not be the case. Conversely, individual treatment with drugs or psychotherapy may cause individuals to reframe their problems in terms of neurochemistry or thinking styles – internalizing a belief that they are the problem, when their problems exist in a wider sociopolitical milieu.
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Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment

Mad In America bloggers, and everyone who is interested, you are cordially invited to participate in a Campaign to Support the CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment. The requested action is to write a blog post or contribute artwork, relevant to the purpose of the campaign, i.e. discussing and supporting the absolute prohibition that is promulgated under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Posts should be ready for March 29, 2016, the opening day of the 15th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
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Postpartum Depression Screening: Prevention or Problem?

What does screening mean, in the ever more prevalent field of Psychiatry? Psychiatric screening is not a biological metric that can be assumed to predict the future in a linear manner. It’s a series of subjective questions. It is, in short, a survey.
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Rethinking Psychiatry Teaches about Despair, Resilience, and the Great Turning

Rethinking Psychiatry is an independent, grassroots group in Portland, Oregon that advocates for a paradigm shift in mental health care. On January 20, we hosted a film and discussion by activist and artist Barbara Ford. The subject was “Despair and Resilience: How to Face this Mess We’re in Without Giving Up.” Ford also showed film called Joanna Macy and the Great Turning, featuring philosopher, writer, and activist Joanna Macy.
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What Disability Benefit Trends Tell Us About Psychiatric Treatments and the Economy

If antidepressants are effective, and people with depression are more likely to be prescribed them, then you would expect the consequences of depression to start to lessen. One of those consequences, according to government statistics, is being out of work. But what we see is quite the opposite: Increasing use of antidepressants correlates with increased numbers of people with depression who are out of work and claiming benefits, and increasingly on a long-term basis. And this is at a time when disability due to other medical conditions has fallen.
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Me, Allen Frances, and Climbing Out of a Pigeonhole

Four weeks ago, after I wrote a blog about a study that concluded there was no good evidence that antipsychotics improved long-term outcomes for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, I was cc’d on an email that had been sent to a number of “thought leaders” about what I had written. At least as I read the email, it put me into the usual pigeonhole for critics of psychiatric drugs: I apparently was globally “against” medications, and I had displayed a type of simplistic “categorical” thinking. All of this led to my having an email exchange with Allen Frances, and his laying out, in his opinion, the considerable “collateral damage” my writings had done.
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My Diagnosis of ADHD and the Downfall That Followed

A simple, one-time visit to an unfamiliar counselor resulted in my diagnosis of ADHD. That same visit started my avalanche of drug abuse. I was 19 years old when I was falsely diagnosed with ADHD, and it forever changed my life.
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Anxiety: The Price We Pay for Consciousness

In his NY Times article “A Drug to Cure Fear,” Richard Friedman noted: “It has been an article of faith in neuroscience and psychiatry that, once formed, emotional memories are permanent.” This has not been a principle of these disciplines, including clinical psychology, for many years. Consolidation-reconsolidation-extinction models have been around for some time now, applied in particular to persons suffering from traumatic memories; e.g., Holocaust survivors, war and genocide survivors, etc.
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