Why We Must Strike the Terms “High Functioning” and “Low Functioning” from Our Vocabulary 

As I have various discussions about mental health and disability on the internet, I am disturbed at how many people continue to use the terms “high functioning” and “low functioning” when referring to people with psychiatric or other disabilities. I have heard people refer to their family members as “low functioning.” I have seen these terms used by advocates to bully and discredit other advocates who critique calls for increased levels of involuntary treatment as “high functioning” individuals who don’t know what they’re talking about.
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Psychiatric Survivor Entrepreneurs

Many psychiatric survivors have created a gift economy of sorts in offering peer support, and this is by no means to criticize those offering their best guidance freely to those who desperately need it. In fact, the gift economy saved …
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Antidepressant Drugs & Suicide Rates

In 2010, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica published a study by Göran Isacsson et al.  The paper was titled Antidepressant medication prevents suicide in depression. It’s a complicated article, with some tenuous logic, but, in any event, it’s all moot, because the article was retracted by the authors and by Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica about sixteen months after publication.  The retraction had been requested by the authors because of “… unintentional errors in the analysis of the data …”
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All About the Word:
Language, Choice & That Damn Dress

That damn dress. It’s everywhere. And, just as much as anyone, I’ve gotten sucked into staring at the computer screen for way too long from all dress different angles, and relentlessly reading all the articles that have popped up to explain the phenomenon involved. Essentially: having a word for something plays a substantial role in allowing one to see what that word represents. What do you see because of the words that you know? What are you missing?
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Stimulants and Food

The FDA recently approved lisdexamfetamine (LDF) for the treatment of the newly minted DSM-5 diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder. This caused me some consternation and this blog will be as much about my reaction to this news as to the news itself.
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The Pro Choice Dilemma

Yes, we all like to say people should be able to choose whether or not to take psychiatric drugs, and for the most part I say the same thing. It’s politically correct and it sounds diplomatic, it sounds like offering people respect and self-determination, but is it really that simple anymore?
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Developing a Compassionate Voice as a Step Toward Living With Voices

I’ve previously written about the possible role of compassion focused therapy in helping people relate better to problematic voices, in my posts Could compassionate self talk replace hostile voices?Feed Your Demons!, and A Paradox: Is Our System for Responding to Threats Itself a Threat? I’m happy to see more interest being taken in this kind of approach, and a video has just become available which, in 5 minutes, very coherently explains how a compassion focused approach can completely transform a person’s relationship with their voices and so transform the person’s life!
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Born to Sense:
High Sensitivity+Trauma =
Psychiatric Diagnosis?

It’s important that the potential for connection between high sensitivity, trauma and psychiatric diagnosis be explored.   Even if it could be proven that I were born more sensitive,  I have no idea how the way in which I interact with my everyday world may or may not be interrelated to the shape of my reactions to trauma overall (the same reactions that have, for me, led to psychiatric diagnosis).
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“Are America’s High Rates of Mental Illness Actually Based on Sham Science?”

In AlterNet, MIA News Editor Rob Wipond examines the sources of statistics like "1 in 5 Americans are mentally ill" and "90% of people who commit suicide have a mental illness." Are these broad epidemiological statistics scientific in origin, or are they merely politically motivated propaganda? More →

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Over the Falls Without a Barrel: The Patent Cliff and Prescriber Impartiality

When a pharmaceutical company discovers a potential new drug, they undertake a mammoth project. The aim is to amass sufficient evidence that national organizations such as the FDA will approve sale of the drug, and the type of disorders for which it can be openly prescribed – the so-called “on-label” uses. In order to encourage companies to undertake this risk, governments place a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
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Eight Unanswered Questions about Psychiatric Research in Minnesota

The wait has been exhausting, but it is possible that a flicker of light may finally shine on the dark recent history of psychiatric research at the University of Minnesota. Given these upcoming investigations of psychiatric research at the University of Minnesota, the time is right to look back at some of the disturbing, unanswered questions that have emerged over the past several years.
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What the Government Knows About Suicide and Depression That We Are Not Being Told

For nearly two decades, Big Pharma commercials have falsely told Americans that mental illness is associated with a chemical brain imbalance, but buried SAMHSA survey results tell us that depression and suicidality are associated with poverty, unemployment, and mass incarceration. And these results also point us to the reality that American society has now become so especially oppressive for young people that an embarrassingly large number of American teenagers and young adults are depressed and suicidal.
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Robert Whitaker Missed the Mark on Drugs and Disability: A Call for a Focus on Structural Violence

Robert Whitaker extended one of his core arguments from Anatomy of an Epidemic in a blog post last week. His argument revolves around the claim that psychiatric drugs are the principal cause of increasing psychiatric disability, as measured by U.S. social security disability claims. But does this really explain the rise in recipients of these SSI & SSDI benefits?
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The Astonishing Zyprexa Cover-Up

Back in 2006, when my son Franklin was in his late twenties and living in a group home in the Boston area, he refused to take Clozaril any more because of the required bi-weekly blood draws. His doctor prescribed Zyprexa as a substitute, and Frank suddenly began to gain weight … a lot of weight. Later, I would learn that UCLA psychiatrist Dr. William Wirshing had said of Zyprexa prior to its 1996 approval by the FDA: “It is just un-stinkin’-believable. It is the best drug for gaining weight I’ve ever seen.” The doctor indicated that taking ten milligrams of the medication was equivalent to ingesting 1,500 extra calories per day. My outrage knew no bounds.
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Today: 5 Years Free From the Psychiatric Drug Cocktail

It’s been five years today since I completed a six year withdrawal process from a large cocktail of psychiatric drugs. Today is also my 50th birthday which, frankly, seems much more remarkable to me at this point. Inside I am only aware of eternal youth. Upon having done an informal and small survey, it seems most people feel that way though it’s not talked about much among the adults of our species. That which watches and experiences our lives in these bodies does not age. It’s actually a wonderful thing. So I’m here wondering what comes next in this amazing trajectory which is the life being lived in this body that my parents called Monica.
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Occam’s Razor and the Elusive Pursuit of Social Justice

I have devoted more than 40 years to the study of extreme mental states – my own and others. I have witnessed the extraordinary ability of people to survive and thrive after living through horrendous experiences. Remarkable feats of resilience attest to our untapped potential. I am acutely aware of an immense responsibility to communicate and use what I have learned so that others may have a somewhat easier task navigating the difficult and diverse states we call madness.
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Psychiatric Regret

As I was researching my book A Disease called Childhood: Why A.D.H.D. Became an American Epidemic, I came across an interesting pattern in the history of psychiatry. In my mind I made up a name for this pattern and called it “neo-Kraepelinian Regret,” named after the 19th century German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin. Kraepelin was interested in classifying mental disorders by their symptoms so that psychiatrists would have a common language with which to communicate. His most famous contribution is his classification of the different forms of psychosis into manic depression, dementia praecox (which later became known as schizophrenia), and paranoia.
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Stopping the Madness: Coming Off Psychiatric Medications

Millions of patients find themselves caught in the web of psychiatric sorcery – a spell cast, hexed, potentially for life. They are told that they have chemical imbalances. They are told that the most important thing they can do for themselves is to “take their medication,” and that they will have to do so “for life.” Most egregiously, patients are sold the belief that medication is treating their disease rather than inducing a drug effect no different than alcohol or cocaine. That antidepressants and antipsychotics, for example, have effects like sedation or blunting of affect, is not a question. That these effects are reversible after long-term exposure is.
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In Praise of the Nervous Breakdown

Even the most level-headed individual can be rendered insufferable by taking an introductory psychology class. Suddenly the neophyte student will become an arrogant expert, deriding the ignorance of friends, family, and dinner companions. The use of the term “nervous breakdown” is a case in point. Uttering the words is a bit like blowing a dog whistle: Intro Psychology graduates will converge from miles around to clarify that there is no such thing . . . In this case, however, the phenomenon is not restricted to sophomores.
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Addressing the Mental Health Crisis:  What Really Matters

For those who actually believe that psychological problems are on the rise, serious inquiries must ensue. Many have rightly raised concerns about iatrogenic culprits, including drug-induced effects, but this too seems to fall short of accounting for the meteoric rise. Except for those forced to take psychiatric drugs, I would suggest that most seek out drugs in the hope of relieving iniquities caused by factors such as those I discuss below; unfortunately, this may not only lead to avoiding addressing the real issues, but may even lead to further complications of the drugs. Given this, I present five areas for further discussion, which I believe are causal agents for the mental health crisis.
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Derek Pyle

Histories of Resistance and Reform: Derek aims to create a historical record outlining the histories of resistance and reform within and outside of United States psychiatry, psychology, social services and the penal system. Hoping this project will grow through engagement …
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Derek Pyle

Histories of Resistance and Reform Derek Pyle aims to create a historical record outlining the histories of resistance and reform within and outside of United States psychiatry, psychology, social services and the penal system. Hoping this project will grow through …
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Hospital Website Health Care Information May Not Be Reliable

A research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine discussed how information about a newly-approved surgical heart procedure was being presented on the websites of 317 US hospitals, and found the information presented was generally very "imbalanced." An accompanying commentary pointed out that many people seeking health information online do not realize that at a hospital website they might be viewing an "advertisement" rather than an "education portal." More →

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Drugs and Dementia

This week, JAMA Internal Medicine published online an interesting paper, “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study.” They found that exposure to anticholinergic drugs significantly increased the risk of developing dementia. This study has important implications for those who prescribe and take psychiatric drugs.
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My Personal Journey to Our Upcoming Empathic Therapy Conference

Our newest conference this coming April in Michigan is the high point of a transition that my wife Ginger and I have been making for several years. The origins of the change go much further into the past to sixty-one years ago in 1954 when I was an eighteen-year-old college freshman at Harvard and a friend invited me to join him as a volunteer on the wards of Metropolitan State Hospital. I was majoring in American History and Literature, with little thought of becoming a psychologist and no thought whatsoever of being a medical doctor and a psychiatrist.
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