Getting Our Anti/Critical Psychiatry Authors Read:
A Case for Book Activism

Our success as a movement depends on our ability to sway the general public—and if the mainstream press and media never afford our books their due—not even the blatantly cutting edge ones (and if anything, these are treated worse) and the general public, as a consequence, remains largely unaware of their existence, the likelihood of succeeding in our primary mission(s) is substantially reduced.
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A Reply to Peter Kramer:
Do Serotonin Imbalances Cause Depression?

A recent article on the website i09 titled, ‘The Most popular Antidepressants are Based on an Outdated Theory” has again raised the issue of Chemical Imbalances.  It is interesting that the author of the  i09 piece cites Dr. Peter Kramer and states, “Some psychiatrists vehemently disagree with the way journalists and other psychiatrists have pushed back against the chemical imbalance theory….” In both cases he cited what he considered the best evidence in support of the theory, but he did not discuss the research in any depth. Back in 2008, we took an in-depth look at the evidence that Dr. Kramer used to support the chemical imbalance theory. When one takes a closer look at that research we do not think it supports the theory. For this reason, we are reposting our 2008 essay about this.
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So Long, and Thanks for All the Serotonin

The serotonin reuptake inhibiting (SSRI) group of drugs came on stream in the late 1980s, nearly two decades after first being mooted. The delay centred on finding an indication. They did not have hoped-for lucrative antihypertensive or antiobesity profiles. Even though a 1960s idea that serotonin concentrations might be lowered in depression had been rejected, drug companies marketed SSRIs for depression even though they were weaker than older tricyclic antidepressants. They sold the idea that depression was the deeper illness behind the superficial manifestations of anxiety. The approach was an astonishing success, central to which was the notion that SSRIs restored serotonin levels to normal, a notion that later transmuted into the idea that they remedied a chemical imbalance.
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Allen Frances and the Spurious Medicalization of Everyday Problems

On April 5, Allen Frances MD, published an article on the Huffington Post blog.  The title is Can We Replace Misleading Terms Like ‘Mental Illness,’ ‘Patient,’ and ‘Schizophrenia’.  It’s an interesting piece, and it raises some fundamental issues. Dr. Frances’ position in this and other recent papers appears to be that in general, psychiatric “diagnoses” and “treatment” are OK, but that they are being overused by unscrupulous practitioners with the encouragement of pharma, and perhaps other monied interests. But the central issue is the spurious medicalization of non-medical problems in the first place.
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An Open Letter to Colin Powell

Dear Colin Powell: You shared that your wife was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having a ‘chemical imbalance.’ You said she was, as a result, put on psychotropics and found success after doing so. I’m not going to attempt to take that away from her, but whereas so many issues encompass shades of gray, the chemical imbalance theory does not. The chemical imbalance theory is not just unproven; It is debunked. But you need not take my word for it.
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It’s Not Easy Being “Clean”

I think I have underestimated just how hard it can be for people to approach mental health problems from a psychological and social perspective. The longer I work with people who are experiencing severe psychological distress, the more they teach me about the difficulties involved in breaking away from an “illness” mindset. Medications, by and large, are still the mainstay of helping people with psychological troubles despite an increasingly widespread acceptance that psychological problems are not medical problems. Mental illness is an “illness” only in the same way that love-sickness is an illness.
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A Story About NMDA Receptor Subunits, and Why SSRIs Impair Cognitive Capacity

The impact of long-term SSRIs on memory-related nerve cell receptors does have functional consequences. Research shows that SSRIs impair the acquisition of fear memories. (Perhaps a positive outcome.) But unlearning fear memories involves new learning as well, and according to a study by LeDoux and colleagues, long-term exposure to SSRIs makes it harder to unlearn fear memories.
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Antipsychiatry, (Ex)consumers, Peers, and ‘This Movement’: Assembling the Histories of Reform and Resistance, Part 1

Within the communities that surround Mad in America one is likely to hear reference to “the movement.” The basic meaning of this phrase seems clear enough. The movement broadly refers to the groups of people actively rethinking the mental health system, and the treatment of persons labeled as mentally ill, in the United States and abroad. Upon further inspection, however, we realize that there is no centralized ethos uniting these groups. There may be consensus that the current mental health models are troublesome, but within each subset of ‘the movement’ there are many different perspectives about such troubles’ causes and solutions.

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Dissolving Madness,
Ending the Nightmare,
Beginning a Better Dream

Much of what we term “madness” is, in fact, the awakening of the “Self” to its own Wholeness/Divinity. We are born totally pure. Throughout our lives we are subject to projections, flung at us from a multitude of directions: from Mom and Dad, from schools, religious institutions, the media, and the medical model. We are all buried, to some degree, under projections, and interesting symptoms emerge: nightmares, stress and anxiety, fear, flashbacks, and so on. These are not “Madness,” but symptoms of health; of a “Self” attempting to break free from lies.
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Turning Patients into Numbers

I felt persecuted from the moment I was given a psychosomatic label. I found myself hostage to a diagnosis that I hadn’t even known existed: “conversion disorder.” Even though the diagnosis was hidden deep within my medical file under piles of negative test results, it seemed to reveal itself at each new doctors appointment or ER visit. This diagnostic code was now part of me as if it were a scarlet letter on my forehead.
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The Science and Pseudoscience of Children’s Mental Health

Over the past two decades, there has been a meteoric rise in the number of children – now estimated to be 1 in 6 – diagnosed and treated for a range of psychological disturbances including ADHD, autism, mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Explanations in the popular media tend to polarize around two viewpoints. The truth is, neither of these perspectives tell the whole story. Without question, some children are diagnosed unnecessarily because their behavior is inconvenient to the adult world.
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Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals in Brazil

There are 50 Spiritist psychiatric hospitals in Brazil, offering inpatient and outpatient services that utilize an integrative approach to recovery, stressing the spiritual alongside physical and emotional therapies. Few people outside Brazil know of them. This article describes their philosophy, successes, as well as the treatments they use—and how they are a valuable resource for sensitives, creatives, and visionaries.
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Psychiatry and the Business of Madness: An Ethical and Epistemological Accounting

Normally when I write a book review, I include some quotes from the work to enable readers to judge for themselves the quality and content of the material.  With Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, however, this presented a problem, in that virtually every one of the 264 pages of text contains eminently quotable material.
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The Meds Became My Moods:
A Woman’s Story of Dignity, Grace & Love

When my own child died in 1994, several providers encouraged me to seek psychiatric treatment for my despair and despondency. I remember clearly saying that while medications may take the edge off, I wanted to feel the intense grief, I wanted to cry and weep and protest, because our love, inimitable, was worth every tear I shed. But parents of children who die or face death are prescribed psychiatric medication primarily because medical providers are unable to cope with the trauma of child death.
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The Sunrise Center: A Place For Adults To Recover From Psychiatric Drugs

Many people now using psychiatric drugs have been convinced or forced to use them while being treated in the mental health system. A good number of people are eager to stop using these drugs, but are often discouraged by others from doing so. Many psychiatric survivors believe that they can never stop using these drugs because they were told they would need to use them the rest of their lives. We hope the Sunrise Center will become a catalyst for a movement of people creating places for people who want to stop using psychiatric drugs.
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Polypharmacy Poisoning, Dependence and Recovery from the Psychiatric Paradigm

It took surviving all of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, including derealization, gastritis, auditory hallucinations, wasting, dementia, panic attacks and profound depression, for me to come to understand that not only had I really been a cool person before all that shit, but also that nothing was wrong with me. I was smart and a little neurotic at times, but that was it. Drugs caused me to be mentally ill where I had not been before.
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Madness in Civilisation:
A Cultural History of Insanity

Until recently the history of psychiatry was a neglected backwater whose murky depths were explored largely by psychiatrist. The impression conveyed by books such as Tuke’s Chapters in the History of the Insane in the British Isles, Macalpine and Hunter’s Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry: 1535 – 1860, Berrios and Freemen’s 150 Years of British Psychiatry 1841 – 1991, or Fuller Torrey and Miller’s The Invisible Plague, is one that sees psychiatry and modern systems of mental health care as the inevitable outcome of progress through scientific thought, a (white European male-led) narrative from darkness and ignorance to enlightenment and knowledge.
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Medical Nemesis Revisited: Physician-Caused Anger, Despair & Death

Regaining power over our own health was the goal of Ivan Illich’s 1976 book Medical Nemesis, which detailed an epidemic of physician-caused death and illness. This epidemic continues, and so does an epidemic of physician-caused anger, despair and crazy-appearing behaviors. In 2013, the Journal of Patient Safety reported that the “true number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients is estimated at more than 400,000 per year,” making it the third leading cause of death in the United States It is especially drug use errors, communication failures and diagnostic errors that result in another medical nemesis: They can make us appear—and sometimes feel—like we’re “crazy.”
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Fighting for the RLCs Continued: Where’s the Evidence?

The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (along with the five other RLCs across the state of Massachusetts) remains in jeopardy of a 50% slash to our budget that would go into effect July 1, 2015 should it come to pass. As noted in my previous post (Peer Supports Under Siege), the proposed reduction was introduced by Governor Charlie Baker in early March. However, there are many hoops to jump through and so we’ll remain in budget limbo for some time to come while the House and Senate draw up their own recommendations and then everyone comes together to make a final call.
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There is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In

Psychiatric abuse is a reality in psychiatric settings when mental health law and the safeguards within it are not implemented properly or monitored effectively. We have found this out to our cost and others also. Forced drug treatment can be used on mental patients who resist by declaring them to be “without capacity”. It’s for this reason that in 2011 I became involved in clinical psychology training groups at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities, for people who are “experts by experience”, or service users and carers. For over 3 years I tried to be meaningfully involved and to have a voice at the table. However it became increasingly difficult to be heard and to be valued as a psychiatric survivor, an unbeliever in mental illness. I was up against it from both academics and the people with lived experience, and their carers, who believe in biological psychiatry and that forced treatment is necessary.
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Protesting a Psychiatric Atrocity

On May 16, 2015, protests against electroconvulsive therapy or ECT will take place around the world.  To support this educational campaign, I am releasing my newest Simple Truths about Psychiatry video which is titled “Shock Treatment is Trauma.” Ted Chabasinski, an attorney, is an organizer of the protest.  Ted recently talked about his personal experiences and the upcoming protests on my radio show, “The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour.”  We agreed that money and power is not the only motivation of shock doctors.   Many are taking out their violent impulses on their helpless victims.
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“Doing” Antipsychiatry on all Cylinders: Possibilities, Enigmas, Challenges

On several occasions I have written about the complexities of antipsychiatry politics, exploring more specifically, how to “do our politics” in a way that moves society squarely in the direction of the abolitionist goal. In this article, I am once again theorizing the “how” of activism—for understanding this territory is critical to maximizing effectiveness. However, this time round, I am approaching it from an angle at once more general and more practical. That is, I am investigating the tools or approaches at our disposal as activists.
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An Essay on Finnish Open Dialogue:
A Five-Year Follow-Up

It has been five years since I traveled to Western Lapland in Finland to film my documentary “Open Dialogue” on their Open Dialogue Project—the program, as I stated in the film, presently getting the best long-term statistical results in the world for the treatment of first-episode psychosis. My film came out four years ago, and since then I have been screening it around the world, giving lectures about Open Dialogue and my experience in Finland, participating in regular conferences and Q&A sessions about it, receiving daily emails, Facebook messages, blog and Youtube comments about it (as it’s now been free on Youtube for a year), and keeping in regular contact with some of the folks who work there. But I haven’t shared many of my updated opinions in writing, so I wish to do so now.
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Publication Bias and Meta-Analyses: Tainting the Gold Standard with Lead

For decades the gold standard for medical evidence was the review article – an essay looking at most or (hopefully) all of the research on a particular question and trying to divine a general trend in the data toward some conclusion (“therapy X seems to be good for condition Y,” for example). More recently, the format of review articles has shifted – at least where the questions addressed have leant themselves to the new style. The idea has been to look at the original data for all of the studies available, and in effect reanalyze them as though the research participants were all taking part in one gigantic study. By increasing the number of data points and averaging across the vagaries of different studies, a clearer finding might emerge. The meta-analysis has gone on to be revered as a strategy for advancing healthcare. It has vulnerabilities.
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Largest Survey of Antidepressants Finds High Rates of Adverse Emotional and Interpersonal Effects

I thought I would make a small contribution to the discussion about how coverage of the recent airline tragedy focuses so much on the supposed ‘mental illness’ of the pilot and not so much on the possible role of antidepressants. Of course we will never know the answer to these questions but it is important, I think, to combat the simplistic nonsense wheeled out after most such tragedies, the nonsense that says the person had an illness that made them do awful things. So, just to confirm what many recipients of antidepressants, clinicians and researchers have been saying for a long time, here are some findings from our recent New Zealand survey of over 1,800 people taking anti-depressants, which we think is the largest survey to date.
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