Reflections on a Psychiatric Indoctrination, or, How I Began to Free Myself from the Cult of Psychiatry

Laura Delano
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(dictionary.com)

Cult, n.

  1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
  2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers.
  3. the object of such devotion.
  4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

 

Before I begin to reflect on indoctrination, let me first establish why Psychiatry is modern society’s greatest cult.  As an institution, it is bound together by veneration of a belief: that certain human experiences are “symptoms” of biochemical “diseases”/”conditions”/”disorders”/”illnesses”.  This medical language is perpetuated by Psychiatry despite the fact that it is founded on no, or, at best, faulty, science.[1] 2 3 4 5 6 7  The pseudoscientific construct of “mental illness” is so powerful, however, that even though Psychiatry has no evidence to hang its hat on, it perpetuates this biochemical story as though it does.  But don’t take my word on it: on January 16th, 2013, Dr. Thomas Insel, the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), carried this message very powerfully himself, however hidden between the sophisticated and spellbinding scientific language it may have been:

 

“What about mental disorders or, as we often call them, “behavioral disorders”?  We now understand these as brain circuit disorders, but we define them based on changes in behavior…

Of course, we face two big questions going forward in this research [into so-called “schizophrenia”].  First, can changes in brain function or some biomarker yield better prediction and longer lead-times for intervening to preempt psychosis?  We now have the neuroimaging and cerebrospinal fluid measures in Alzheimer’s disease and the cardiac imaging and lipid measures in heart disease to define risk with more precision.  Imagine the cognitive, imaging, and plasma measures that might redefine what we now call the risk state for schizophrenia so that early prediction becomes precise for any given individual.”9

[my emphasis added]

 

If “mental disorders” are, in fact, “brain circuit disorders”, why are they defined by “changes in behavior”, and not by evidence of, well, brain circuit disorder?  I think it’s safe to assume that if Dr. Insel, as our country’s representative psychiatrist, had scientific evidence of brain changes, or biochemical alterations of any kind, he would have said so.  But what Dr. Insel has perfectly articulated is that, in fact, it is through social observation— through observing “changes in behavior”— that this proclaimed medical condition gets diagnosed.  Note, too, that when comparing the measures of “mental disorders” to those of Alzheimer’s disease or heart disease, he doesn’t say that these measures actually exist, but rather he asks us to “imagine” them, as if they did.

And thus, I argue that Psychiatry is a cult founded upon doctrines so truly powerful that its disciples have effectively facilitated a mass suspension of disbelief across mainstream society, and increasingly, the world at large.  With this said, I can now begin to talk about indoctrination.

As a fourteen-year old, I hated the world, and I hated myself.  This hatred stemmed from a realization I’d had while looking in the mirror at the start of my eighth grade year: that everything I thought I knew about who I was, where I belonged, and what I believed in, was not as it seemed.  In the snap of a finger, anything tenable was untenable; any person I’d once trusted was untrustworthy; any characteristic of mine that had made me the girl I’d become in my first thirteen years on the planet was suddenly inauthentic and fake.  After a lifetime of unmediated experience in the world, I suddenly discovered that I was nothing but an actor on life’s stage, playing a part.  That I was a fraud, and a puppet being directed by greater social forces.

In revolt, I began to question everything that had been taught to me by my parents, my school, and my town.  It was quite destabilizing and disorienting to believe that everything I once held as real actually wasn’t, and quickly, my confusion and fear morphed into anger channeled at any person who had tried to “make” me who I was.  It didn’t help that this anger was brought to a psychiatrist, who told me at the end of our first session that the rage was a symptom of “mania”, and that I was “Bipolar”.  Fuck that, I thought, the fire inside of me burning brightly.  No way am I crazy.

Flash forward four years, when, as a freshman in college, I found myself utterly desperate for someone to tell me who I was, what was wrong with me, and what I needed to do to fix it.  Indeed, I had turned one hundred and eighty degrees.  Prescriptions for Depakote and Prozac had chased me through high school, as had that “Bipolar” label, which I’d shunned, agreeing to a “Major depression” label instead.  That anti-authoritarian spark in me, which Bruce Levine has written so poignantly about here, had faded, and I was ready to turn myself into Psychiatry, convinced that I couldn’t manage my emotions, my thoughts, or myself, any longer.  It didn’t matter that I’d been a successful student and athlete, a writer, a lover of nature, and a reliable friend, or that I was privileged with four years ahead of me at a prestigious college; I was in so much emotional and existential pain that I was sure I was broken, that the psychiatrist had been right all along.  I was ripe for indoctrination into Psychiatry: miserable, isolated, marginalized, confused, scared, and convinced of my powerlessness.  I was an apple hanging precariously from the tree, ready to be picked and devoured by Psychiatry.

 

(dictionary.com)

Indoctrinate, vb.

-to teach (a person or group of people) systematically to accept doctrines, esp. uncritically

 

When Psychiatry had first attempted to indoctrinate me as a young teenager, I was not yet vulnerable or hopeless enough.  When I eventually reached such a state, I surrendered myself immediately to a psychiatrist at America’s most prestigious private psychiatric institution, and became a full-blooded patient, passive and dependent and convinced of her brokenness, in a matter of weeks.  I believed him when he said I’d need “meds” for the rest of my life, and would have to learn how to “manage my symptoms” and “set realistic expectations” for myself.  I was sure that the “Bipolar” diagnosis was the explanation for all my problems, and that the prescribed “treatment” would be my solution.  I needed to be “Bipolar”, and I needed to want the antipsychotic, antidepressant, and sleeping pill prescriptions that were written for me at the end of that first session, because they gave me hope that something could, and would, change.  For, that’s what I wanted so desperately: a shift, some sort of momentum forward and out of the mire I was in.  With his MD and PhD from Harvard, my psychiatrist emanated this powerful promise for change.

Just what does it mean to say that I was indoctrinated into Psychiatry?

-It meant letting Psychiatry tell me who I was, and forgetting how to define myself.

-It meant surrendering my humanness and replacing it with the narrative of a “chemical imbalance”, of an abnormal “condition” that made me different from everyone around me.

-It meant that I never questioned anything I was told by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, because I believed that “mental health professionals” had science on their side, and expertise about me that I could never have.  After all, who would ever be so presumptuous as to question a doctor?!

-It meant sacrificing my agency, my sense of self, and my sense of responsibility and accountability to the DSM, to any proclamation made by a “mental health professional”, and to my “meds”.

-It meant that I stopped trusting my gut, following my instincts, or having faith in myself and my ability to feel big feelings or think intense thoughts, and that my psychiatrist was always on speed dial in case I needed an upped dosage or an extra therapy session when I sensed another “episode” coming on.

-It meant that I was fragile, “couldn’t handle” too much stress, was emotionally unpredictable (“labile” was a favorite word of mine), was “hypersensitive”, and was at the whim of my “disease”; indeed “being Bipolar” became my justifiable excuse for impulsive behaviors, fights with family or friends, and shirked responsibilities.

-It meant that most of my decisions began with, “My psychiatrist says that…”.

-It meant that I was Bipolar.

-It meant that I forgot how to stand up for myself and for my rightful place in the world.

-It meant that I no longer believed I should have full rights, as my “disease” made me less than human.

-It meant that I lowered my eyes in subservience before the shiny, gray-silver DSM-IV-TR, the Psychiatric Bible, my life’s definer.

-It meant that I worshipped at the altars of worn leather armchairs, praying to the Gods of DSM, Harvard Medical School, and Lexapro.

-It meant that I became convinced only Psychiatry could save my life and any scrap of sanity I may have had left; that if left to myself, I would surely perish.

 

I could go on, and on, and on.  My thirteen-year indoctrination into Psychiatry meant quite a lot of things, many of them so subtle and deep-seated that there aren’t the words to describe them.  What I can state clearly is that the doctrines of Psychiatry were once the basic foundations upon which I constructed my life, as well as the lens through which I saw myself, and my place in the world.  In those years, nothing came even remotely close to shaping my existence as much as the Cult of Psychiatry did.

And how, just how, did I wake up?  How did I awaken to, and from, this powerful indoctrination?   Let me focus, for the time being, on The Moment.  That is, the moment in which I began to wake up from thirteen years of drugged, numbed, disconnected, psychiatrically labeled sleep.  The moment in which I began to recognize and realize that everything I’d been told to believe about myself by Psychiatry was not necessarily true— a moment, ironically, quite like my experience before the mirror as a young teenager, which is what led me to becoming “Bipolar” in the first place.

You see, in that critical moment in May 2010, the spark that years ago had been fiery and bright in me was once again rekindled, the fuel, Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic.  Upon seeing its hardcover face looking at me from a ‘New Release’ shelf in a Vermont bookstore, I couldn’t have predicted in my wildest imaginings that the result would be an awakening; indeed, I was so anesthetized by Psychiatry’s spell that I didn’t even know I was asleep.  But something in the deepest parts of me— my life force, my élan vital— was stirring, and desperate for change.  I was in an existential survival mode, although I didn’t know it consciously, and I was ready for something to be the catalyst.  The timing was just right for it to be Anatomy, and despite how incredibly disconnected and sedated my mind was from five psychotropic drugs, my human spirit, still in me after all those years under the “care” of Psychiatry, began to stir.

I know today that my spirit was in me all along, small and faded and hidden away, but patiently waiting for the chance to wake up.  Knowing this, I hold onto the belief that any human being oppressed by Psychiatry, whether for months or for decades, has the potential to wake up.  It doesn’t necessarily require an awareness of one’s oppression in order for The Moment to happen— at least, that was my experience, for my understanding of the devastating human rights violations rampant across all of Psychiatry has grown progressively over the last two and a half years— all there needs to be is a deep, unconscious desire for a different way.

Something inside of me was desperate for change, for a path that would lead me away from where I was in that moment, which I’ve written about here, and all it took was an openness, and a readiness, to try out a different way of thinking.  It was a way of thinking that required I leave behind every single belief I held about myself— that I was “mentally ill”, that I had a “chemical imbalance”, and that I needed “medication” to “treat” this “condition” that made me eternally different.  I needed to hold onto the hope that maybe the theory behind Anatomy of an Epidemic was true: that long-term use of psychotropic drugs actually creates physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual disturbance and trauma.  I needed to be willing to entertain the notion that rather than think of myself as someone with “treatment resistant Bipolar disorder” or “serious mental illness”, I could instead test out the hypothesis that my “treatment” was making me “sick” in the first place— a hypothesis that ended up being true.  At the root of it all, I needed to be ready and open to the idea that, in truth, there had never been anything wrong inside of me, that I was no different than any other person, and that the intense emotional and psychic pain I’d felt for much of my life was not a “symptom” to be “treated”, but rather, was a part of the vast spectrum of human experience, as well as the direct result of entering the “mental health” system in the first place.

Last night, I was having dinner with a childhood friend who knew me before I got lost in the depths of Psychiatry.  He knows me today, as well, but he missed knowing me in the thirteen years I spent believing I was “mentally ill”.  We were talking about the fact that none of the realizations I’ve come to— realizations that are based in science (or in dispelling false science), in evidence, in experience, and in common sense— would have happened had I not been at least slightly open to thinking about things in a different way.  In my case, that openness wasn’t even something I was necessarily conscious of in The Moment— that beautiful, powerful a-ha moment in which I turned the last page of Anatomy of an Epidemic and saw my life in an entirely different way.  He said to me, “Laura, you know, we can talk ‘til the cows come home about all that needs to change, about all the myths that need to be dispelled, but none of it is going to matter if people don’t have an open mind.”

I wish I had a quick fix to that dilemma, just as I once wished there was a quick fix to my emotional and existential pain.  I know today that there is no easy way to open up a collective consciousness’ closed mind.  What I do know, however, is that the fraud, oppression, dehumanization, trauma, and human rights’ violations happening on a daily basis in the name of Psychiatry, of “care”, of “treatment”, and of “First, do no harm”, are happening right under our noses, and that somewhere in our collective future, a sneeze is bound to happen.

 

 


[1] Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic (2010).

2 Paula Caplan, They Say You’re Crazy: How The World’s Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who’s Normal  (1995).

3 Joanna Moncrieff, The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment (2009)

4 Marcia Angell, “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” June 23, 2011, The New York Review of Books.

5 Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse, “Psychiatry’s Grand Confession,” January 23, 2012, www.madinamerica.com

6 Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse, “Revising the History of the Serotonin Theory of Depression?” January 29, 2012, www.madinamerica.com.

7 Elliot Valenstein, Blaming the Brain: The Truth about Drugs and Mental Illness (1998)

8 Chris Kresser, “The ‘Chemical Imbalance’ Myth,” June 30, 2008, www.chriskresser.com.

 

9 Thomas Insel, “The Case for Preemption,” January 16, 2013.  www.nimh.nih.gov.

240 COMMENTS

  1. Psychiatry is a belief system. Nothing more. While there is a lot to do to make sure this scam is put out of business, we should as well be thankful that at least in a US context, a lot of significant battles have been won. Imagine what it would like if the laws of the United States were like those in the United Kingdom,

    http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f857/rr/632637

    “These attitudes have negatively affected our concept of patient need to the extent distorting our views on the need for detention under the Mental Health Act. Legally, patients should be detained to hospital if they are suffering from a mental illness which may represent 1) a risk to self, 2) a risk to others or 3) a deterioration of their illness if left untreated. When deciding on which course of action to take, I have been amazed at the number of times that i am met with the question of “why on earth do you want to admit them, they’re not suicidal or homicidal.” It is almost as if we have forgotten about the third criterion completely-we have a duty to provide timely and effective intervention to prevent further deterioration in a patient’s underlying mental illness, IRRESPECTIVE of the presence or absence of risk!!”

    It’s a useless enterprise to try to reason with somebody who holds said views. And most psychiatrists do, even in the US. Then only reason American psychiatrists do not engage in as much abuse as their Europeans pals do is that here we have a different legal standard and that medical malpractice law is on the victims side (for now).

  2. In fairness I don’t think that people in the UK with a “history of psychosis” are being admitted to hospital on the third grounds on a regular basis. Their is not enough capacity in the system for one thing although I wouldn’t say it never happens.

    The third point pertains more to a situation where what gets called an eating disorder means that a person, possible a child, is at risk of dying if they don’t eat. The perspective of BMJ writers is going to be a little wider than just “psychotic disorders”.

    • I don’t think so. I was at the receiving end of such a policy. I am not disclosing in which country this happened, whether it was in the UK or elsewhere for anonymity reasons, but I can tell you that that pretext is regularly used in all of the European Union for committing anybody a psychiatrist considers it to be necessary: https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/01/ny-times-invites-readers-to-a-dialogue-on-forced-treatment/#comment-19770 . Nobody has won a medical malpractice lawsuit against a psychiatrist in the European Union for abusing that privilege. As you say, it’s only the lack of capacity that might discourage these psychiatrists from abusing more people, not their lack of desire to abuse whomever they want.

  3. Thank you so much!
    This is a brilliant article.
    Viewing psychiatry as a cult with indoctrination makes perfect sense to me.
    Your personal story is reminiscent of my own.
    I suffered trauma as a youth (12-15) and was taken into to mental health “care” and ended up with more than one diagnosis, was medicated and my self esteem/perception was forever skewed.
    “You have a bio-chemical imbalance in your brain” was taught to me like the word of god!
    I also came to internalize an inferiority and inability to participate wholly in society.
    I graduated to “bi-polar” was labelled “medication resistance” and spent my twenties fighting with myself and eventually becoming a full fledged indoctrinated person.
    What the Psychiatrist said, goes. Word of God!
    I too came to realization! (good for you! I am happy you are free!)
    I went to University and studied psychology, wgst, rlst, history and put the pieces together. I became a critical thinker.
    I started Social Work classes recently and we are discussing social implications of psychiatric care and medication use on those who are suffering from unbearable emotion.
    Well, it clicked. Hey, that’s me!
    These are my experiences.
    The veil was lifted!
    Neural pathways change with experience, right? So, I am in control of my own healing…drug-free.
    This is the first time in 18 years that I have been able to feel emotions fully, make decisions without questioning myself and my self esteem is rising!
    I think your article is very important because it shows how complex human experience is being simplified to the detriment of those who are going through struggling times.
    I became a dependent, afraid person with very low self esteem and the diagnosis kept me from being able to love myself because I felt I was a “genetic defect.”
    NO MORE.
    This cult, this dominant narrative about how to help people who are struggling with emotions needs to change.
    Bring on the compassion!
    Bring on the love.
    Thanks again.
    My self esteem just went up, again!
    Great article.
    I am very happy for you!

  4. Well said… wonderfully articulate. Makes me wish I paid attention in English Class.

    I think we all agree on this concept of cult. Many of us here, having sampled the pharmacological kool aid, were successful in breaking free and living to tell our tales. When I think of a cult, I think of a small/idealistic/dangerous group of individuals… trying to coerce weaker minded members of a civilized society. Unfortunately, the cult of psychiatry is the masses, and we are looked at as the so called “cult” of psychiatric survivors/anti psychiatry activists.

    The world is broken, and the inmates are running the asylum. We are the resistance… a movement… or better yet, a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

  5. And yes, I do agree with everything that Laura said. Psychiatry is a dangerous cult. Paula Caplan says that the reason the scam is allowed to continue is because of powerful economic interests (the APA, Big Pharma, psychiatrists that make a lot of money out of the scam…) That is true, but we must not forget that this cult is sanctioned by the powers that be because it helps said powers to provide “scientific” (emphasis on the quotation) backing for getting rid of the people they don’t like. It has the same status now as the Inquisition had during the Middle Ages.

  6. “How I Began to Free Myself from the Cult of Psychiatry.”

    Sounds wonderful to militant cheerleaders here on MIA, and the complaints against psychiatry are well founded, yet how does this type of headline fly in the mass-consciousness? Like a lead balloon. So once again this “us & them,” worldview so prevalent in American society, creates its own maladaptive reality.

    As Murray Bowen pointed out in the 1950’s, we human beings have an issue with “fusion” between our emotions & intellect, confusing emotionally charged thinking with reality. The prime example here on MIA is the railing against our own “biochemical” reality with confused logic about the “social environment” as if this social environment is NOT a product of biology like all life on the planet.

    Yes, I agree that Insel’s early prediction logic is flawed with a mechanical cause & effect logic which does understand the complex interplay of environment & brain-nervous system maturation in pre & post natal experience. Yet to rage against the biochemical reality of human motivation, as many here on MIA do, is simply counterproductive and ignorant behavior.

    Please consider an example of neuroscience research at its very best when comes to understanding our internal makeup, & our biochemical reality;

    “CHAPTER 3

    Right Brain Affect Regulation:
    An Essential Mechanism of Development, Trauma, Dissociation, and Psychotherapy

    There is currently an increasing awareness, indeed a palpable sense, that a number of clinical disciplines are undergoing a significant transformation, a paradigm shift. A powerful engine for the increased energy and growth in the mental health field is the ongoing dialogue it is having with neighboring disciplines, especially developmental science, biology, and neuroscience.

    This mutually enriching communication is centered on a common interest in the primacy of affect in the human condition. In the present interdisciplinary environment, psychological studies on the critical role of emotional contact between humans are now being integrated with biological studies on the impact of these relational interactions on brain systems that regulate emotional bodily based survival functions. By definition, a paradigm shift occurs simultaneously across a number of different fields, and it induces an increased dialogue between the clinical and applied sciences. This transdisciplinary shift is articulated by Richard Ryan in a recent editorial of the journal Motivation and Emotion:  

    After three decades of the dominance of cognitive approaches, motivational and emotional processes have roared back into the limelight.… More practically, cognitive interventions that do not address motivation and emotion are increasingly proving to be short-lived in their efficacy, and limited in the problems to which they can be applied. (2007, p. 1)  

    Echoing this, the neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp now boldly asserts,   The cognitive revolution, like radical neuro-behaviorism, intentionally sought to put emotions out of sight and out of mind. Now cognitive science must re-learn that ancient emotional systems have a power that is quite independent of neocortical cognitive processes.… These emotional substrates promote cognitive-object relations, optimally through rich emotional experiences. (2008, p. 51)  

    And in the psychotherapy literature, Karen Maroda sets forth this challenge:  

    From my experience there are more therapists who have painfully sat on their emotions, erroneously believing that they were doing the right thing. For these therapists, the prospect of using their emotional responses constructively for the patient is a potentially rewarding and mutually healthy experience … perhaps we can explore the therapeutic nature of affect, freeing both our patients and ourselves. (2005, p. 140)  

    In contrast to the prevailing privileged status of verbal, conscious cognition, in my first book on regulation theory I suggested that emotional communications between therapist and patient lie at the psychobiological core of the therapeutic alliance, and that right brain– to– right brain emotional processes are essential to development, psychopathology, and psychotherapy (Schore, 1994).

    Maroda (2005) challenges therapists to ponder an essential clinical problem: “How do you relate empathically to an unexpressed emotion?” (p. 136). I will argue that unconscious affects can be best understood as not repressed but dissociated affects, and that later-forming repression is associated with left hemispheric inhibition of affects generated by the right brain, whereas early forming dissociation reflects a dysregulation of affects resulting from the dis-integration of the right brain itself.”

    Excerpts from “The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy” by Allan N. Schore.

    “After three decades of the dominance of cognitive approaches, motivational and emotional processes have roared back into the limelight.”

    What Allan N Schore is articulating, is that we hardly know ourselves in this “cognitive” approach to life that is barely aware of its subconscious “arousal” motivation, seen most most clearly in a taken for granted “us & them” worldview, made possible by what the late Teresa Brennan described as the “subject – object” orientation of the Western mind’s “i think therefore I am.”

    Our overvalued sense of “objectivity,” of which the mad one’s are accused of loosing insight into, is at last being shown-up as largely “false” sense of self, built on the need to avoid “sensation” awareness within the body. Hence the core issue in human mental health, is the “bottom-up” defense of “dissociation,” in a continuum of human experience from madness to kind of “intellectualism” shown by many in the APA.

    In calling for a more “human” more nuanced debate, we need to understand the subconscious reality of own nuance in what is increasingly being understood as the “implicit-self” of right-brain motivation.

    What Allan Schore and others like him understand so well, is that in order to face the challenges of the 21st century, we need to stop focusing on the world “out there” so much, and focus on the world within, where our perception and therefore understanding of reality is created.

    Sorry Laura, but you need to educate yourself more, about the reality of just how you do, being you. With this kind of headline, you just shoot yourself and the rest of us in the foot, as far as mainstream awareness is concerned.

    Best wishes to all,

    David Bates.

  7. Hi Laura,

    I’m sorry for the struggle you describe. I don’t wish to comment on your experience, as it is yours, but I would like to caution against the use of anecdotal evidence to support a strong, broad conclusion, as you seem to be doing by tying your personal experience into the argument about psychiatry. Having read some of your other posts, I notice a tendency to use your story as an indictment against the entire field. I have had a very different experience with psychiatrists and other mental professionals. I don’t feel I’m “broken” as a person, or anything else along those lines, but I do struggle with what I believe is accurately characterized by mental illness, and I have been helped by several psychiatrists and psychologists. It seems that most of the people who leave comments have had experiences similar to yours, but it is not representative of all who have entered the mental health system.

    Also, I’m puzzled by your take on Thomas Insel’s remarks. You seem to be suggesting that behavior is independent of brain function; from what do you think behavior arises? The soul? Setting aside the matter of mental health or illness, what is it that you think the brain does? How does ingesting certain chemicals (i.e. neuroactive drugs, including LSD, cocaine, etc.) lead to altered states of consciousness and changes in behavior? Take LSD, for example, how do you think it has the effects that it does? People under its influence have perceptual and cognitive experiences that are quite different – to put it as an understatement – from those that ordinarily arise. Intoxication from alcohol also corresponds to many changes in behavior, emotion, and cognition. What are these substances acting on? Behavior is a manifestation of brain function. Returning to mental illness diagnosis – many are spoken of as behavioral disorders, but it is not as though most diagnoses are made on the basis of observing behavior. Psychiatrists don’t go out on the streets and watch people, trying to figure out who might be mentally ill and then diagnosing them as such. Sometimes observable behavior is part of the diagnostic process, but more often than not people *report* their experience of symptoms. People with depression describe how they feel and what sorts of thoughts they are having. People with schizophrenia generally do the same. The onset of schizophrenia occurs between the ages of 18-30; people change dramatically, which is evident to those who know them, and usually to the individual as well. The changes are not mere existential suffering that might be a “normal” part of human experience – they involve profound disruptions to cognitive and perceptual processes. What do you think causes these changes, if not changes in the brain? What would you suggest to these people? You’re fine, don’t worry about it? Try getting in touch with your true, inner self and you’ll stop experiencing hallucinations, delusions, etc., many of which you understand are not “normal” and which may be very unpleasant, frightening, or hindering your ability to living the life you otherwise would?

    Dr. Insel was clearly talking about *risk* states, not illness states. He was asking whether research might find ways to “see” illness before it arises, as it can be “seen” in people who are at-risk for Alzheimer’s or cardiac disease. There most certainly is evidence of structural and functional changes in the brains of people with schizophrenia. The science in all this has a long way to go, to be sure, but the call to abandon the belief that the brain is the seat of human experience – normal or otherwise – is…absurd. States that look very much like what we see – observable behaviors – in humans who report depression can be induced in non-human animals by targeting certain systems with drugs. Signs of anxiety brought on by induced stress in, say, rodents can be mollified by giving them drugs that have anti-anxiety effects in humans. When a railroad spike went through Phineas Gage’s brain, his personality changed dramatically, including his moods, as evidenced by a significant increase in irritability, anger, etc. These few examples hardly begin to touch on the overwhelming evidence that the brain is responsible for experience. You would not be taken seriously in the mainstream because you appear to know very little about the basics of psychology (as in the science of human experience, not the science of a particular kind of human experience). There are very basic confusions evident in, e.g., your response to the passage you cited from Thomas Insel.

    I don’t see how “take down the system” is in any way productive. You think psychiatry is a cult, but you don’t seem to see how what you’re spouting sounds like a conspiracy theory. Psychiatry and (clinical) psychology have a long way to go and are in need of many reforms, and people like you have so much to offer because those us who have had the experience of being patients can bring unique perspectives to the table. I wish you’d use your passion more wisely – no amount of fervor is going to dismantle the field of psychiatry. Instead of spinning wheels trying to take it down anyway, you could work toward improving it, which is not only possible but also bound to happen one way or the other. You seem very intelligent – if you educated yourself more about the science of psychology (again, the broader definition of psychology, not just clinical psychology), then you could work toward an end that isn’t so futile.

    Best wishes,

    Layla

        • Haha it was partially complimentary, too! She writes very well, indeed. Also, thank you for your support. AWESOME comment on page three, by the way.

          I did feel it was somewhat deserved that my comment was removed, however…

          Full disclosure: my intentions were poor. I intended to be sardonic — not cruel, certainly — but I do believe my intentions justified the censorship.

          I appreciate Layla’s willingness to represent her perspectives, as well as her passion. I suppose I didn’t enjoy her delivery. Generally, too long-winded and remonstrative towards Laura, for my taste.

      • I think you are right. Layla seems to be NAMI’s board of directors special envoy to Mad In America :D.

        Sorry Layla, it doesn’t work. Your fallacious arguments in favor of “chemical imbalances” or the “brain imaging” scams have been debunked here many times over. Psychiatry is a fraudulent endeavor, period.

        • I’m not really talking about chemical imbalances or brain scans. I’m talking about a delicate, complicated system (the brain) that is subject to pathology just like any other organic system. You seem to be saying that studying pathology in the brain is a fraudulent endeavor.

          • No, I am saying that psychiatry is a fraudulent endeavor because they INVENT disorders in committee that then they try to match to brain disorders. They decide what’s “normal” and not “normal” based solely on behavior that the DSM committee members find objectionable. It’s really not too difficult to understand. Once they have reached the conclusion of “normal” vs “not normal” they try to push scams such as “chemical imbalances” or “patters in brain scams” to justify their labels.

            As somebody else pointed out below, brain injuries is the domain of neurologists, not psychiatrists.

          • Layla, a brain disease is a brain disease, the treatment and study of which is firmly anchored in the purview of the neurologist, and it’s no good saying mind is brain, brain is mind. Just in case you are inclined to make such an equation, I would remind you that mind is an abstract concept, not an organ, and therefore cannot be susceptible to pathology, although most believers in the secular faith of psychiatry when speaking of pathology are going by a definition that is a metaphorical extension of literal pathology, which allows for accomodation within the semantic bounds of the word just about anything psychiatrists decree to be a disease.

            Hence the reason why no-one any longer describes epilepsy as a mental illness, even though, for example, an epileptic in the build up to a seizure may hallucinate. Yet the concept of epilepsy as mental illness has long since fallen into desuetude, because as soon as an organic substratum was discovered for epileptic experience, it rightly ceased to be seen as “mental illness”.

            No-one on here is that ill-educated as to live in ignorance of the brain’s susceptibility to pathology. It is just that “schizophrenia” does not occupy the same empirical status as neurodegenerative disorders like “Alzheimer’s”.

            As for your neurodeterministic view of human behaviour and perception, such notions are reductionistic and implictly advance a dehumanizing, degrading, as well as monocausal view of man and his behavioir respectively that impedes our capacity to see the enitre causal network, to see the interplay between man and the phenomenal world, the culture and immediate environment in which he/she is reared which are both formative in regards to thought, perception and belief.

            Why for example do I speak in a Welsh accent? Is it simply because I am programmed to by my brain? No, but because of immediate and wider cultural programming, because of engagement with the world around me. This is one of the reasons why I reject the “mind/brain” equation, because “mind” is much more than just a property of brain, but a property also of experience and engagement with the phenomenal world, shaped also by education and the community of minds in which I have developed.

            You say, “what do you think causes these changes, if not changes in the brain?” Talking in such a way obscures the fact that the brain bears the impress of experience. Yes the brain plays a role, but in many regards I think you are confusing causes with effects.

            You talk about not being taken seriously in the mainstream, as if the approbation of those who are inextricably caught up in the web of the regnant prejudices, secular superstitions and assumptions of the age were a precondition of a love for truth!

            As for your assertion of the neuroscientistic dogma, that brain is merely a manifestation of brain function, conspicuous by its absence is the role we as people, and not merely automata, play in all this. Anyway, your theory has nothing to do with behaviour, to you there is no behaviour seemingly, only neurological reflexes.

            She puts forward the case of Phineas Gage in support of her argument, as if the case of someone who had had his brain stabbed and mutilated with a steel rod were applicable to those who hadn’t, as if the seeming personality transformation (which it has been said by some has been exaggerated greatly) consequent to this freak encounter with a steel rod proved anything beyond the now established fact that brain damage and disease, especially if severe enough, can sometimes reduce the latitude an individual has for exercising self-control in whatever sphere of his being.

            She also talks of delusions, yet where are all these non-delsional people? It is one of the supreme delusions of the age, that there is such a thing as a man free from the psychological tendencies that predispose us to delusional thought, something which, contrary to the view held by some egocentrics and ethnocentrics, knows no temporal, cultural, national or individual boundaries. It is as intrinsic to human nature as desire, which I would argue is often causally related to delusion, but that that is another issue.

            I would continue, but spatial and temporal cosiderations dictate otherwise.

        • As there’s no reply button directly beneath that comment, which I’m now intending to comment upon, I’m using a reply button up, above it – calculating (hopefully, correctly) that my words will fall directly below that comment; but, just in case, my words wind up elsewhere (as sometimes these things can be hard to predict), I will say, here, now, that this is my response to what The Madness of Cledwyn, the Bulb, Bulbousons said, on February 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm:

          🙂 Here, here (well said – and great Welsh accent) !!

          • P.S. — Now, on my 2nd read through, of this thread, I’m finding the need to question one line in this really trenchant comment, above, by The Madness of Cledwyn, the Bulb, Bulbousons:

            “mind is an abstract concept, not an organ, and therefore cannot be susceptible to pathology”

            I wonder: is that necessarily true???

            Any relatively *certain* answer to this question is entirely dependent upon knowing exactly how one regards this term, “mind” – whether one actually defines it in the abstract; for, in truth, there are varied ways of defining ‘mind’ – from one culture to the next.

            Even one moment to the next, my own way of thinking about ‘mind’ may change. E.g., at times, in meditation, I’ve perceived ‘mind’ as *impervious* to physical changes; yet, in the midst of a coming down with a flu, I’ve thought, ‘This is surely affecting my mind.’ The latter thought is essentially conceding a belief: mind *can* be susceptible to pathology.

            However, that belief does *not* lead me to presume, that any so-called ‘mental illness’ (as described by psychiatry) is neurologically caused.

            Simply, it may be important to acknowledge, in these discussions, that there are various, different, potentially equally valid conceptions of ‘mind’ – some of which are rather concrete, while others are highly abstract.

            And, RE: the case of Phineas Gage…

            Yes, there are various ways of looking at – and interpreting – his story.

            http://mancpsychsoc.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/damasios-error-faith-in-science-and.html#more

    • To begin with, the only true evidence of structural changes in the brain of someone with “schizophrenia” comes from the changes the “medications,” cause. And that’s what ALL psychiatric medications do, cause the same damage to the brain that street drugs (most of them having been “psychiatric” drugs 50 years or so ago) do. And this is REAL proof, in contrast to the yet to be found proof of the genetic or biological basis for “mental illness.” Psychiatric drugs are PROVEN to cause biological illness. It’s this disabling of the mind that psychiatry then believes is healing, although it clearly correlates with more and more mental illness, NOT less of it.

      Along with the scientific proof they cause chemical imbalance, brain damage, extreme dependency (and all the symptoms of mental illness would you read the side effects); psychiatric medications also statistically correlate with an epidemic of mental illness and disability rather than a lessening.

      All this, in answer to you own question: “What do you think causes these changes, if not changes in the brain?”

      To damage a brain saying you are treating damage there is no proof of; and in the mean time, while this damage adds up, to have this treatment correlate with an epidemic; one might again point out: “What do you think causes these changes, if not changes in the brain?”

      In the mean time, the people whose brains weren’t treated with this treatment proven to cause what it says it’s healing (a chemical imbalance and brain damage) their lives correlate the most with healing. But this is for the most part discredited by “biological” psychiatry.

      This is a far stretch from the definition of medical treatment to conclude that scientifically causing disease, which statistically has caused an epidemic is a branch of healing, but that’s the facts. And this whole affair depends on a judgment of a person’s behaviors and then believing you’ve done something, regardless of the total outcome; while NOT JUDGING their behaviors as coming from a biological disease correlates MORE with healing.

      Thus again, one may ask:

      “What do you think causes these changes, if not changes in the brain?”

      • Correlation is not causation, and, moreover, rates of schizophrenia have been stable over the last 50 years. The U.S. also has a lower prevalence rate of schizophrenia than most other countries, with East Asian countries topping the list. Unless Burma and Syria have been creating an epidemic by prescribing psych meds…

        • Drugs that cause brain damage IS causation, in fact that’s the one CLEAR causation for chemical imbalance in mental illness. Also prevalence rates for schizophrenia haven’t at all stabilized they’ve sky-rocketed the past 50 years.

          Do yourself a favor and actually read Anatomy of an Academic before posting here.

          • Sorry, this doesn’t even make any sense to discuss “prevalence” of a disease such a schizophrenia. What HAS skyrocketed is the amount of disability because of “schizophrenia” and this corresponds with the adherence to the “biological” method. Something clear to anyone knowing the scientific truth (not the scientific ideology, but the scientific truth) about psychiatric medications. That they CAUSE chemical imbalance according to the rules of science rather than that they address any proven chemical imbalance/disease.

            You used to be able to get a person put in an asylum for life for like 500 dollars, that included some “diagnosis” which usually WAS schizophrenia, or whatever the term for it was then. When they started SSI, and people could be on disability instead of in an asylum, “they” found out that many of the people really had nothing wrong with the, except they had been in an asylum most of their life. This is quite amazing also, because there’s no objectivity to psychiatric diagnosis, wasn’t then, isn’t now. It depends on subjective judgments of whoever is diagnosing, and there’s no consistency between those who do the diagnosing. DESPITE THAT many of the people diagnosed with whatever they had been diagnosed with, and thus stuck in an asylum for most of their life, when they SSI program was started they were let out. This ALSO happens to correspond with the time they had “invented” neuroleptic medications which then were heralded as miracle cures; because they fixed these people that actually never really had anything wrong with them. And since then, they really correlate with more disability, more loss of life, more relapses and MORE COST in comparison to other methods (mentioned numerous times here). It’s doesn’t take too much sane thinking to realize who is making money from all of this. And that when the biological method correlates with more violence, less healing, more disability that these numbers are turned around by such people in order to gain more privilege to force “treat” people. This again means more money……

      • The point also was that in countries where they don’t have the money for psychiatric drugs that there’s more recovery and less relapse, not how many people got diagnosed.

        What REMAINS is that the methods that are largely forced on people (the biological model) correspond the least with recovery, and these methods are PROVEN to cause brain damage, cause chemical imbalance, to lesson life, to correlate with more relapses. In fact the biological method of treating “mental illness” has been PROVEN to cause chemical imbalance, while the supposed chemical imbalance of the disease it purports to treat hasn’t EVER been proven to exist. If you don’t understand that YOU don’t understand science. And negating people’s remarks because they actually directly address what a chemical imbalance is doesn’t mean they aren’t being scientific, it means YOU aren’t. Convoluting that a disabled mind that doesn’t respond anymore is treating a chemical imbalance is NOT science, and you can add to that the lessening of recovery, increase in occurrences of said disease, loss of life, the increase of relapses, the whole slue of side effects…..

        There’s also NO informed consent going on when people aren’t told the truth that these drugs are DISABLING their minds and causing chemical imbalance. Which they AREN’T told. Nor are they told about the methods which correlate to a greater degree with healing. In fact those methods are suppressed, and when there’s more occurrences of “mental illness,” when the biological model is used as treatment we are told we need more of the treatment that corresponds with the increase. And there’s push for more leeway to force people on the treatment that correlates with the increase.

    • Layla, your post is also riddled with attempts to terrify people of emotional reactions, or cognitive confusion; which not only magnify fear (which does exactly that, magnify fear and promote paranoia) but which also quakes fears that a person has something innately wrong with them. You also try to completely disqualify the illusions as expressing anything but calling them unpleasant and hindering people from functioning. One only has to look at how disabling the whole personality with mind numbing psychiatric drugs (which cause chemical imbalance rather than heal it: and NO disabling the mind from expressing itself is NOT treating a chemical imbalance it’s causing a chemical imbalance, a biological disease, brain damage) that this then is seen as functional, one does gain perspective on what you exactly mean when you refer to something that hinders someone from “functioning.”

      The brain does and believes exactly what you program it with. You make it terrified and it’s going to be terrified. Your whole attempt to prove this otherwise is so riddled with false logic that you basically prove your thoughts CAN’T come from a simple chemical reaction. That could never cause the false logic in fundamentalism. A chemical reaction in itself isn’t going to try to prove that it was caused by a chemical reaction; and that believing it’s a chemical reaction is the only way you can see it for what it is (as if what you are thinking the whole time isn’t a choice, but a chemical reaction, which proves that it’s a chemical reaction, because you have no choice but to chose what it can’t all by itself say it is, but it IS).

      And this is supposed to help heal, to maintain that cognitive confusion is healed by assaulting it with fixated fundamentalist rigidity? Healing a chemical imbalance is causing one; and caring about the brain is damaging it, and not seeing yourself as broken is blaming everything on what you are breaking (which is the biological brain)….

      And if you are to care about the human brain rather than discarding it as the seat for human existence, you have to start by NOT damaging it! And then you can move on to see that a functional society doesn’t depend on chemically disabled brains.

      • I’m not sure how anything I’ve said suggests that we ought to fear emotion. In fact, a big part of my recovery has been regaining the ability to feel any emotions in the first place. I have been on psychiatric medications, and I did not find that they damaged me. You can say I’m wrong about my own experience, but I was barely able to function — that is, I was very clearly not able to live the life I wanted, which I don’t think was my fault or an expression of the “true nature” of my mind, whatever that is — and now I am. I took medications and I received psychotherapy. Yes, I found psychotic features, depression, and paralyzing anxiety to be both unpleasant and hindering. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with preferring the way I think and feel now. You seem to be suggesting that people with mental illness ought to be “left alone” – in some cases, sure, but I’m grateful I wasn’t “left alone” to experience the “natural expression” of my mind. There seems to be a theme here of suggesting that the only “right” way to experience the mental health system is as an evil empire, but that is very invalidating for those of us who believe we have benefitted from our experience as patients.

        Also, human thought is no different from anything else in the universe – it comes down to electrical activity, just like the rest of it. Thinking there’s no way that chemical reactions could cause thoughts about themselves is like thinking there’s no way evolution could produce something as complex as sight.

        • Layla your posts remain riddled with attempts to terrorize people about “mental illness.” When someone points out that the “treatments” for schizophrenia correlate with less recovery, more relapses, loss of life etc.; you response is to question whether one should say to the family of a “schizophrenic” that it’s not serious, as IF anyone is saying that to begin with.

          What’s truly SERIOUS is that the most likely treatment for “schizophrenia” that anyone is to receive in the psychiatric profession correlates the LEAST with recovery and healing. This has been stated NUMEROUS times with many references to the material that proves this.

          No matter how “serious” you are about it, no matter how much you believe “medical” assistance is necessary, this DOESN’T change the statistical truth that that method correlates the least with healing, or the scientific truth that such methods in fact correlate with causing chemical imbalance, brain damage, disabling the mind and a loss of life.

    • Layla, you wrote, “There most certainly is evidence of structural and functional changes in the brains of people with schizophrenia.” They are small studies, and therefore of limited use, often in people who have been on medication for years and we know the medication destroys grey matter in the brain, also we know that brain structural changes happen all the time in all brains for a variety of reasons. There are some studies which have shown that the same changes seen in the brains of people diagnsosed with schizophrenia are also found in those who have suffered extreme child abuse.

      So overall the evidence of brain scans is mixed and confused and certainly is not something that any treatment decisions could or should be based on.

      A good source here is Joanna Moncrieff, a UK critical psyhciatrist who has published on this issue. Here is an article about some of her work: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mad-in-america/201008/charlie-rose-and-the-mentally-ill-brain

      • Right, all conclusions at this point are tentative ones – good scientists (and practitioners) know this, bad scientists (and practitioners) don’t. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any evidence. Furthermore, given what we now understand about the brain, in general, it seems obvious that a subset of the population that has a number of commonalities regarding abnormal experiences (the symptoms of schizophrenia are definitely not the norm) would also have a number of commonalities regarding brain function.

    • Granted, there are some good psychiatrists out there; I was very lucky enough ot have had one on my case but he was young and not entrenched in the quackery that psychiatry in general has descended into. The only “broken brains” are those which have been created by the drugs that Big Pharma and Biopsychiatry peddle. So much of what psychiatry does to people today is nothing but snake oil peddling and flim flam quackery.

  8. Hi again,

    I didn’t see your response to David before posting my previous comment. You say in that response that you are well aware of the brain as the seat of experience, so I imagine that would your response to much of what I wrote. But some things aren’t making sense to me. How do you explain your position that there is no mental illness? All other biological processes are subject to pathology, why think the brain is any different? I take it you don’t object to the concept neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). If the brain can become “diseased” in ways that disrupt memory and motor function, why can’t it become “diseased” in ways that disrupt emotional processes? Many people who are diagnosed with depression report that the experience isn’t normal *for them* and they can report, after successful treatment, that they have returned to normal *for them* so…isn’t that enough to say that they have a pathology in the brain, which isn’t normal? Feeling sad is a brain process, and it is a normal one, but entering a state of clinical depression is not “normal” in the sense that (1) it is not the norm, and (2) it is qualitatively different from the experience of states of non-clinical depression. Depressed mood and depression are not synonymous – I have had depressed moods and I have had depression; it is not hard for me to see that one is “normal’ and something that can be worked through without the help of either medication or other therapy, whereas the other is not “normal” and I need help to get back to normal (not necessarily medication, but treatment of some kind). I have experienced grief – I lost my father when I was 24 – and it was a very painful experience, but I can identify the ways in which it was not akin to my experience of depression. Maybe non-pharmacological remedies are best for depression and anxiety. Maybe, in some cases, combined pharmacological and other treatments are best (as in most effective). Psychosis is a different story. I don’t see how one can expect to help someone in the grips of psychosis by talking them through it or any other technique. Here again, I have a question: if psychosis can be chemically-induced (e.g., LSD), why should we think it cannot be countered with chemicals? Psychiatric drugs aren’t up to par yet, but it’s a very young science and studies an extraordinarily complicated system. It seems odd to conclude that its limited success to date must mean the whole enterprise is mistaken. Are there serious issues with drug companies? Absolutely. Is the answer to abandon the project of understanding how pathology in the brain might be mitigated through chemicals that act on its constituent parts? I don’t think so, and that answer certainly doesn’t follow logically from the premise. Again, improve the system, don’t destroy it.

    Best wishes,

    Layla

    • The so called “computer analogy” explains beautifully the lie behind psychiatry.

      Computers, despite all technological advances are still less complex than the average human brain but still provide a good, if imperfect, way of understanding why psychiatry is a lie. Computers have both hardware and software. It is an indisputable fact that if you take a computer you don’t see the software anywhere, all you see is that the software is encoded in the computer’s hardware in the form of abstract zeros and ones (these zeros and ones are to software what the neurons are to brain activity). Software malfunctions take all forms and shapes. One of the most insidious, and difficult to fix, are the so called memory leaks, by which software takes increasingly more memory in spite of doing nothing useful -the cause is that dynamic memory is not deallocated when it is not useful anymore. You can see that your machine slows down, that your Windows/MacOSX/Linux is slower than normal. You can temporarily fix the problem by adding more memory to the machine (more neurons so to speak). You could even put your X rays to work and pretend that you see “patterns” in the machine’s memory when the slowness appears. You might even be lucky and submit the RAM of the machine to some ECT sessions and by some random chance, the software problem gets fixed. However, as any software engineer will tell you, the right way to address a memory leak is not to do random hardware interventions in the computer in hopes that things get fixed but investigating the source code of the program, find the problem and recompile. In other words, the right solution is to reprogram the computer/brain.

      So this analogy is perfect to describe the situation we are faced when talking about biopsychiatrists. Biopsychiatrists are hardware engineers who think can fix software problems (in fact, who have the hubris to tell us which software is better despite knowing nothing about software) through hardware interventions. Such hardware engineers would be fired in the computer industry in a second. In the medical industry, they are called psychiatrists and given all sorts of unjustified powers to force their quackery onto innocent victims.

      Hope you understand now.

      • So, in your analogy, what should we do if we can’t reprogram the computer? Should we just say, oh well, sorry computer, you’re just going to keep slowing down? Or should we go ahead and do what we can to improve its performance?

        I’m afraid your analogy fails, though. The brain is not a computer, and the analogy to one has been rejected by most cognitive scientists (it can be useful to employ the analogy, but it also increases the susceptibility to confusions). The code that runs computers would be analogous to DNA, but DNA isn’t static like a code. Its expression depends on environmental inputs. The functions a computer performs depend on input, but what the code does in response to inputs is not changed by the inputs themselves. This is not the case with DNA. What any given brain does depends on how the DNA of the relevant individual is expressed. How the DNA is expressed depends upon what environmental inputs it receives, and this is a dynamic process that never stops as long as the organism is alive. If I take cocaine, it alters transcription factors in my nucleus accumbens, which return to their previous levels of activation after the effects of the drug have dissipated. If I take cocaine over and over again, the transcription factors will behave differently even when the drug isn’t in my system. Transcription factors regulate the expression of DNA, so my DNA is expressed differently in the presence of cocaine (than it would be in the absence) and it is expressed differently over longer periods, in the absence of cocaine, if I use the drug chronically. So, the brain can, in fact, be “reprogrammed” by chemicals that act on neurotransmitters. This is what we are doing when we take cocaine, and it is what we are doing when we take psychiatric medications. It is true that we don’t yet know enough to be precise in what we change and how – epigenetics is an extremely young field and cannot yet inform psychiatry. Some psychiatrists undoubtedly think they know a lot more about how it all works and what they are doing when they prescribe than they actually do My psychiatrist doesn’t – I am learning about all this as a grad student in psychology (a career I was inspired to pursue by the help I received from my treaters; I like learning about the brain, but I enjoy the level of analysis in psychology, which is why I’m not going into psychiatry, along with the fact that I hate blood and guts, so couldn’t survive med school), so I talk with my psychiatrist about these sorts of things. Even before I went back to school, though, he was upfront about the limitations of what is known about the drugs we talked about in the context of my treatment (I have been on medications and off them since entering treatment – at the moment I am off and doing well enough that neither I nor he thinks I need to be on any at the moment). He would say things like, “this can help with that” not “this does help” and “we can try it; here are the side-effects.” He would also say “this class *seems* to work better than that class, although there’s some uncertainty about whether it should be used to treat X at all. Here’s what I *think*”

        Again, let’s try to improve the field, not destroy it. It would be great if all psychiatrists were aware of and upfront about the limitations of their knowledge, but saying that their field is “a lie” doesn’t accomplish much. Instead, one might try saying, “some psychiatrists overestimate or misrepresent the extent of their understanding about brain processes.” Psychiatric drugs have a long way to go, as does everything brain-related, but they are not without any success. Ask Elyn Saks, who wrote “Successful and Schizophrenic” for the NY Times recently. Note that she is critical of a number of things about conventional psychiatric thinking, yet she also mentions reaching out to her doctors when she feels that she is starting to slide. She talks about symptom management techniques that are not pharmacological, but she also mentions increasing her medications when she notices that she’s starting to slip. She offers a nuanced perspective, which is the only kind that makes any sense in the context of psychiatry, psychology, or anything else brain-related.

        • Again, the objections you raise against my analogy only makes the case against psychiatry stronger, not weaker because the complexity of the brain is several orders of magnitude higher than the complexity of a computer. Besides, we do have software that learns from experience. In fact, the field of Machine Learning is one of the most lucrative ones nowadays http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_learning .

          Psychiatry is about defining “behavior that deviates from normal”, in which “normal” is whatever psychiatry decides it to be “normal”. Under 1960s psychiatry, homosexuality was not “normal”. Under 1980s, 1990s and 2000s psychiatry, ego dystonic homosexuality was not normal. Under DSM-5, both are “normal”. You eat “too much”, it’s not “normal”. You eat “too little”, it’s not “normal”. Under pre DSM-5 if a person who was close to you died and you were sad for several weeks, that was “normal”, now it is “depression”. So psychiatry self proclaims its role to define “normal behavior”. That’s their only and prime goal, and that’s the reason they are legally sanctioned. They base their decisions about what’s “normal” on the personal biases and prejudices of the DSM committee members.

          Now, to justify what’s “normal” vs what’s “non normal” they come up with increasingly sophisticated scams that they try to adapt to their list of “non normal” behaviors to look like as if it is “science”. In this regard, they are like the defenders of eugenics, for which natural selection was just an excuse to justify laws that promoted forced sterilization on people they considered had to be eliminated from humanity.

          You say, what’s the solution? People have had “problems of living” as long as there have been people. It seems to me people did quite well when they addressed those issues by talking to their friends, family members, spiritual counselors…

          I am past the point where I think that a “reasonable” conversation with these tormentors is going to be useful in anyway. It will not.
          They either know all too well that they are promoting a lie, and they do it for pure financial gains, or they have rationalized their lies in the same way those who believed in “separate but equal” had rationalized segregation laws. Either way, it’s a pointless exercise to engage them. It’s a waste of time because not only they are not going to change their minds but, as any other self-serving interest group, they’ll use all the leverage they have to maintain the status quo that benefits them.

          People have a very powerful way to rationalize their own evil. Look no further than the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments.

          • People did just fine talking to their spiritual counselors? Really? People weren’t locked up in the back shed because they were “raving lunatics”? What did I do wrong that talking to my friends, family members, etc. didn’t enable me to do “quite well.” There are certainly problems with nosology – it is a vexing one that must be addressed. There are also certainly problems with drug company incentives, but suggesting that all psychiatrists are evil tormentors is way over the top.

          • The complexity of the brain makes understanding it a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I didn’t prove your point at all – you suggested that trying to “fix” a brain by acting on its neurons is like trying to “fix a computer by acting on its hardware instead of reprogramming it. I pointed out that acting on neurons *is* reprogramming the brain.

            Also, minimizing the seriousness of eating disorders by referring to them as “eating too little” is offensive to anyone who has had, or loves someone who has had, an eating disorder.

          • Layla,

            Give me an explanation for how the brain-based experience of falling in love differs from the brain-based experience of psychosis in a way that evidences why the former is considered non-pathological and the latter is considered the result of an illness from a biological perspective. They’re both altered states compared to the normal psychological baseline that most people experience throughout their lives. They can both distort a person’s subjective interpretation of reality on a temporary or protracted basis, and cause a person to hold views (both cognitive and emotional) not shared by the majority of others within their culture or social group. There are studies claiming to show that the brain scans of people experiencing both of these altered states are different than “normal” brains. There are no doubt genes without which human beings could not experience either of these states.

            Yet one is called a pathology and the other is called human nature. Laura is absolutely on point when she critiques Thomas Insel for implying that mental illnesses are brain circuit “disorders” when, at the present time, they can only be defined in terms of observed behaviors rather than actual brain circuits.

        • “I am learning about all this as a grad student in psychology”

          You are just defending what you see as your future livelihood at this point. Nothing more, nothing less.

          The idea that something as complex as human thought can be “reprogrammed” through alterations of the concentrations of neurotransmitters is as ridiculous as saying that a memory leak, or any other software problem, can be fixed by altering the conductivity of the semiconductors that encode the 0s and 1s -in addition, unlike in the case of psychiatry with its neurotransmitters, we do have perfect ways of altering the conductivity of said semiconductors in a very accurate way- . Preposterous on its face.

          You are just rationalizing what you see as a lucrative future in the field.

          • In addition to cannotsay2013, here’s an interesting piece about “mentally ill” animals: http://spitbristleandfury.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/a-schizophrenic-mouse/

            And, Layla, you too, in a rather desperate attempt to justify psychiatry and its “treatments”, mention “schizophrenia”, psychiatry’s holy cow, “If this isn’t a brain disease, then what is?!” You’ve missed to look at the most important thing, before you jumped to the conclusion that there can’t be any other explanation for such an extreme behavior as that which psychiatry fancies to label with “psychosis”, respectively “schizophrenia”, than that it must be caused by a broken brain: the outcomes. If so-called “schizophrenia” was a brain disease, and not an extreme but still natural and in light of the person’s life story perfectly understandable reaction to her life, how do you explain that drug “treatment” produces outcomes that are by far worse than both no treatment at all, and even more worse than the outcomes of alternative approaches like Open Dialogue, which view crisis, aka “psychosis”, as a very understandable reaction to dysfunctional relationships rather than a “symptom” of a brain disease, and treat it accordingly with, well, dialogue, talk? It’s worth remembering that the proof is in the pudding. Read Anatomy of an Epidemic, as NigelB suggests, and read Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery to get to a real understanding of extreme human behavior — and the extreme life circumstances that make it a necessity for survival, not a brain disease. And if the extremes of our humanity scare you so profoundly that you need to safeguard yourself against understanding them with labels and stories about broken brains, the profession of a psychologist, i.e. a helper for those experiencing extreme reactions to an extreme life, may not be the best choice for you.

          • First, my focus as a grad student (in *psychology*) is on studying mindfulness meditation, a practice derived from the Buddhist tradition, as a treatment for mental illness. The Buddhist psychology around mindfulness, and in general, is rich and goes back over 2,000 years. So, no, you are wrong – I’m defending something that has nothing to do with my future “lucrative” career (I assure you I could make a lot more money by going into a different field).

            Of course we can, in principle, reprogram the brain with chemicals that act on receptors – how we can do this in such a way as to have beneficial effects is another question, but there’s no question that we can. Just start smoking pot or snorting coke multiple times every day for a while, and see if the targeting of certain receptors doesn’t reprogram your brain. Then reevaluate whether it is “preposterous on its face” that human thought can be reprogrammed by altering neurotransmission.

            Again, there’s a long way to go in psychiatry before this “reprogramming” can be done as reliably and effectively as we’d like, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The science in all this is so very young – it would be the strangest case of scientific progress in history if it had all the answers, or even was most of the way, already. Why should we give up on trying to understand the brain and how it can be manipulated?

          • You cannot reprogram the brain with LSD, you can DISTURB the operation of the brain, which is a complete different matter. You cannot say: take X amount of LSD and you’ll have a hallucination with your favorite actor. All you know is that if you take LSD, you are likely to hallucinate. That’s what psychotropics do, they DISTURB the brain. They don’t reprogram it or “cure” any of the DSM disorders. As explained in my analogy with a computer, sure, if you perturb the conductivity of the semiconductors that will affect the software, however, that is not reprogramming, it’s just altering the support of the software. Big, really big difference.

            You are just repeating the same “chemical imbalance” canard that has been debunked here many times over.

        • Re: ‘Successful and Schizophrenic’

          Suggestion, read this by Al Siebert, Ph.D., ‘Successful Schizophrenia –

          “Psychiatrists who say that so-called schizophrenia is a brain disease like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis, are distorting medical facts. They are making the so-called “schizophrenic” condition seem much worse than it is. What these psychiatrists do not tell the public is that while neurologists can determine with laboratory testing who has Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis, no neurologist can determine with laboratory tests who has schizophrenia and who does not . No one dies from schizophrenia, even when untreated, and people diagnosed with “schizophrenia” can recover on their own without treatment-something no person with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or multiple sclerosis has ever done.”

          More here –

          http://www.successfulschizophrenia.org/articles/message.html

          Duane

          • Re: Nuanced Approach

            How about the facts instead?
            The vast majority of people have been inundated with psychiatry’s lies for the past several decades that the facts appear ‘extreme’.

            Such is the case when a lie is told so often, by so many (experts) that it takes on a life of its own.

            Peter Breggin, M.D., ‘Psychiatric Drug Facts’ (keyword, *facts*) –

            http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=187&Itemid=93

            Duane

            Duane

          • Early mortality is very much associated with schizophrenia. As an aside, I almost died from mental illness. The fact that we can’t yet look at the brain and “see” schizophrenia doesn’t mean it’s not a pathology. To say that it’s not a brain disease “like” A.D. or P.D. isn’t saying much. Of course it’s not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a brain disease of another kind. Crohn’s disease is not a gastric disease “like” stomach cancer is a gastric disease, but it’s still a pathology. Tell the families of loved ones with schizophrenia that it’s not “that serious.”

          • Marian, diseases are natural. Cancer is natural and it makes sense in light of the person’s genetic predisposition and environmental inputs. What on earth does that have to do with anything? There’s something called the “naturalistic fallacy” that seems to be in play in your remarks. I understand trauma and the extreme reactions it brings about, I’ve lived it. There’s no desperation in my remarks about psychiatry – this is not in any way high-stakes for me.

          • @Rachel, You raise an excellent and interesting point. Before I respond to it, let me make it clear to all that I am not blindly “pro” psychiatry, nor have I had *only* positive experiences as a patient of psychiatrists. At one psych hospital, I was over-medicated, put in restraints (sometimes, looking back, I probably needed to be – it was because I was out of control, hurting myself, and realistically couldn’t be stopped any other way; other times, it seems they jumped the gun and taking more time to talk me through what I was experiencing probably would have done the trick), and I was traumatized by the experience. It is my experience, on the whole, that I view positively. As a gay person, I am very aware of the issues with decision-by-committee on what constitutes abnormal. I believe there are serious problems with the role that drug companies and insurance companies play in shaping how mental illness is defined and treated. I am constantly asking critical questions in my classes (e.g., who decides what counts as “clinically significant” impairment or distress?) The professor who taught a class on psychopathology that I took last semester constantly pointed out the troubling issues surrounding nosology, including the fact that most diagnostic categories were designed at a time when we had almost no understanding of the brain science that informs us today. Many in the field are aware of the fact that there are serious problems with how mental illness is defined and understood, and there are efforts to address these issues. (For one such effort, see the NIMH call for research based on “Research Domain Criteria” laid out on this website http://www.nimh.nih.gov/research-funding/rdoc/index.shtml ). I also learned a lot about the history of the DSM; there is no question that it is a work in progress and someday students in psychopathology classes will be looking back at where we are now and learning about how it was gradually corrected to be what it is in their present-day. Then, further down the road, even more-distant-future students will look back on the first group’s present-day DSM (or whatever it’s called then) and learn about how *that* one got X and Y all wrong and what’s changed since, and so on and on – no human endeavor ever reaches perfection.

            I think there is a very valid point to take from the comparison you draw to love. Conceptualizing mental illness as illness like every other kind may not be the best approach, though this does not mean there is no such thing as mental illness, just that we may have to reexamine how we should understand illness in this context. Note that disruption of normal functioning does not, in and of itself, constitute illness, even in our current paradigm. For example, I might experience a disruption of normal functioning because I am high on meth, but that’s not considered an illness. I might experience a disruption in normal functioning because I am spending all my time writing replies on a blog post comments section instead of attending to my to-do list 🙂 but I don’t know that I have “commenting illness” contrary to how others posting here may diagnose me. The idea of “brain circuits gone awry” surely has merit – a degree of common sense tells us that being in love and being clincially depressed or having OCD to the point that one cannot leave one’s house are qualitatively different. In the case of addiction, there is ample evidence of disruptions in reward-circuit processing as well as disruptions in glutamtergic activity that leads to alterations in long-term potentiation (aka synaptic plasticity). Addiction is easier to understand in this way because of the obvious ways in which exogenous chemicals hijack normal processes and exert an influence on brain chemistry, but there is plenty of reason to believe that other mental illnesses involve relevantly similar processing disruptions. The idea that because disruptions in processing occur naturally they must not be illness doesn’t make sense when we consider it in light of, say, an auto-immune disorder like arthritis. Arthritis is immune functioning gone awry, depression/schizophrenia/PTSD is brain circuit functioning gone awry. Insel’s point, I take it, is that our understanding of mental illness as disordered brain circuitry ought to inform our diagnostic practice, which seems quite right. Again, see the Research Domain Criteria. Finally, being in love is something that few seek treatment for, whereas mental illnesses are something that many seek treatment for. We get into very sticky territory when it comes to forced treatment – there are no easy answers to be had. I look at my own history and see how complicated it can be in a single individual case. Was it right that I was once involuntarily committed? I guess it depends on what is meant by “right.” On the one hand, I most certainly would have told you it wasn’t at the time. On the other, I am now very glad it happened. I probably wouldn’t be alive today had I not been committed. Was it my right to kill myself? Maybe, but I’m glad I didn’t, so I’m glad someone thought it wasn’t my right. Thought experiment: but what if, in the future, I decide that I want to die and it is in fact the case that I would never regret it (assuming I could look back on the decision, this is a thought experiment, remember) if I actually went through with the decision – would it be right to hospitalize me and so prevent my doing so? No, probably not. But how can we know in advance whether someone would look back and regret it (if they were able to) or wouldn’t (if they stay alive)? We can’t. Again, no easy answers.

            And that’s really my point in all of this – I’m not trying to “defend” psychiatry. No, my point is to call attention to what I view as weak reasoning and overly strong conclusions. Why am I doing this? Because Laura seems very intelligent and I believe she could be of great service to the movement to improve psychiatry (a movement all around us that is happening every day and actually does have a chance of getting somewhere), but she can’t do that unless she’s willing to accept that it needs improvement, not annihilation. Psychiatry will not go away, but it will be improved. The posts I’ve written are a call for those who understand how badly it needs improving to take up the cause of making it better. The more we all do to help psychiatry help itself (like we would help oncology help itself – not for the sake of the oncologists, but for the good of those in need of cancer treatment), the faster it will improve.

            Given my history, I am quite sensitive to the vulnerability of psychiatric patients and equally averse to the manner in which some mental health professionals run roughshod over those in their care. It’s a little hard to take the “us vs. them,” “kill the beast,” “psychiatrists are liars and frauds” arguments though. A little AA wisdom: easy does it.

          • @cannotsay 3:28pm – true, acute administration of LSD does not reprogram the brain, valid point – I stand corrected. However, chronic use of e.g., cocaine, marijuana, alcohol *does* reprogram the brain, in various – but on the whole reliable – ways.

          • Psychosis probably seems a lot worse to the psychotic person’s family than to either the psychiatrist or the patient. The reason for this is that the psychiatrist sees the person when they are at their best, when the psychotic is really sick he won’t go out. As for the person with psychosis he doesn’t remember his psychotic episodes so in retrospect he doesn’t think he was sick. It is the family who has to deal with the craziness every day.

            Just because they don’t know what causes psychosis does not mean it is not real.

            You say people who are psychotic can recover on their own without treatment. My son has been psychotic for almost four years. When do you think he will recover?

    • “Psychosis is a different story. I don’t see how one can expect to help someone in the grips of psychosis by talking them through it or any other technique. Here again, I have a question: if psychosis can be chemically-induced (e.g., LSD), why should we think it cannot be countered with chemicals? “

      This deserves some response. It doesn’t matter whether you can “See” how one can expect to help someone in the grips of psychosis; that only means you DON’T see. The truth REMAINS, and has been that way since the biological model for mental illness was put into effect: people who do the best with “psychosis” have NOT received “medical” help with it. People in developing countries where there’s no money for these “medications” have less relapses and more recovery. People in countries where they do have the money for these “medications” do better when they aren’t medicated; and in fact usually recover after 20 to 25 years (or less). And there are amazing programs like the Soteria House, Open Dialogue, the asylums the Quakers used to have; all of these had recovery at rates many times above the “biological model.” In fact, to state that one can’t see how someone can “talk” another out of psychosis, while this has been PROVEN to be more effective, simply points out a cognitive block. It points out a RIFF with reality, and science and statistics. And UNFORTUNATELY most of the treatment for this “disease” is inflicted on people by exactly those who “ don’t see how one can expect to help someone in the grips of psychosis by talking them through it or any other technique” although it is EXACTLY those techniques that correlate with the most recovery and healing.

      It’s just plain convoluted to propose that because LSD can (according to you) induce psychosis and that thus you can counter it with chemicals. People come out of a (what you call) psychosis induced by LSD all by themselves. I don’t know “WHY” people should all decide it should be different except for this mental construct that pills “heal” psychosis (and the “psychosis” is equivocated” with a drug trip), added to this, the pills that are said to “heal” psychosis cause more relapses, take off years from a person’s life, are highly addictive, numb the whole personality making the person more docile rather than able to express themselves (and what they need to express to get in touch with what’s going on); and aren’t countering a “LSD” trip. And they add to the same toxicity that LSD causes. Something you have tried to equate with genetic reprogramming (something which AGAIN doesn’t correlate with the healing that occurs in the areas you summarily dismiss). Psychosis also is something different than an LSD trip. ALL the people who have been through psychosis, who have been through extreme trauma, who have gotten in touch with what the human condition really is, who have transcended their fear based societal programming, discovered their own innocence instead, recognized that in the human condition in general and moved on, learned not to feed in stress; ALL those people know it’s something VERY different than an LSD trip. And this amazing group of people, all having completely valid stories, all honoring what it is to be human; they aren’t even acknowledged, aren’t studied, aren’t looked to as actually having experienced anything by most of the “biological” model of mental illness which beforehand has to decide “I don’t see how one can expect to help someone in the grips of psychosis by talking them through it or any other technique.”

      The EVIDENCE to the contrary is there, and quite conclusive. And it doesn’t depend on deciding beforehand that what has happened, and has been happening the whole time, is impossible.

          • Oops never mind, I see it…what I’ve seen in the literature suggests that med non-compliance is actually one of the strongest predictors of poor outcomes (in terms of various measures like age of mortality, education, work, quality of relationships, independent living, etc.)

            Can you point me to research indicating that medication has such poor outcomes? (That’s not meant to be facetious, I’d like to take a look – genuine interest, although I’d only be interested if it’s coming from peer-reviewed sources. And no, there’s no conspiracy to keep legit, but counter-to-conventional-wisodm results out of peer-reviewed publications. If you think there is, take a moment to consider how such a view might be similar to fringe right-wing paranoia…)

          • Layla,

            Re: Your request to be pointed toward scientific literature that shows mediations and “poor outcomes”.

            You’ve come to the right place. Take a close look at this research, done by Robert Whitaker – by disorder and drug class. You may find the ‘timeline for antipsychotics’ quite remarkable. –

            https://www.madinamerica.com/source-documents/

            By the way, they are not “medications”… they are drugs, as Dr. Peter Breggin points out, in his scientific papers. –

            http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=37

            Be well,

            Duane
            discoverandrecover.wordpress.com

          • Here it is.
            Read it and weep (literally):

            A Research Timeline for Antipsychotic Drugs

            1883 Phenothiazines developed as synthetic dyes

            1934 USDA develops phenothiazines as insecticides

            1938 Phenothiazines used to kill swine parasites

            1949 Phenothiazines used to hinder rope-climbing abilities in rats

            1950 Rhone Poulenc synthesizes chlorpromazine, a phenothiazine, for use as an anesthetic

            1952 French psychiatrists use chlorpromazine as part of a drug cocktail that can put mental patients into “hibernation”

            1952 Chlorpromazine described as producing a chemical lobotomy

            1954 Chlorpromazine, marketed in the U.S. as Thorazine, found to induce symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

            1955 Chlorpromazine said to induce symptoms similar to encephalitis lethargica

            1959 First reports of permanent motor dysfunction linked to neuroleptics, later named tardive dyskinesia

            1960 French physicians describe a potentially fatal toxic reaction to neuroleptics, later named neuroleptic malignant syndrome

            1962 California Mental Hygiene Department determines that chlorpromazine and other neuroleptics prolong hospitalization

            1965 Neuroleptics found to impair learning in animals and humans

            1966 NIMH study of one-year outcomes find that drug-treated patients are more likely than placebo patients to be rehospitalized

            1972 Tardive dyskinesia is said to resemble Huntington’s disease, or “postencephalitic brain damage”

            1973 Neuroleptics shown to cause decrease of nerve cells in basal ganglia in rats

            1975 Boston researchers report that relapse rates were lower in pre-neuroleptic era, and that drug-treated patients are more likely to be socially dependent

            1977 In animal studies, neuroleptics found to cause significant increases in dopamine receptors in the brain, which is the very pathology hypothesized to be a cause of schizophrenia

            1978 California investigator Maurice Rappaport reports markedly superior three-year outcomes for patients treated without neuroleptics

            1978 Canadian researchers describe drug-induced changes in the brain that make a patient more vulnerable to relapse, which they dub “neuroleptic induced supersensitivity psychosis”

            1978 Neuroleptics found to cause 10% cellular loss in brains of rats

            1979 Prevalence of TD in drug-treated patients is reported to range from 24% to 56%

            1979 TD found to be associated with cognitive impairment.

            1979 Relapse in patients on injectable fluphenazine found to lead to “severe clinical deterioration”

            1979 Loren Mosher, head of schizophrenia studies at the NIMH, reports superior one-year and two-year outcomes for Soteria patients treated without neuroleptics

            1980 NIMH researchers find an increase in “blunted effect” and “emotional withdrawal in drug-treated patients who don’t relapse, and determine that neuroleptics do not improve “social and role performance” in non-relapsers

            1982 Anticholinergic medications used to treat Parkinsonian symptoms induced by neuroleptics reported to cause cognitive impairment

            1985 Drug-induced akathisia is linked to suicide and to violent homicides

            1992 World Health Organization reports that schizophrenia outcomes are much superior in poor countries, where few patients are maintained on neuroleptics

            1992 Researchers acknowledge that neuroleptics cause a recognizable pathology, which they named neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome

            1994 Neuroleptics found to cause an increase in the volume of caudate region in the brain, which is a sign of brain damage

            1994 Harvard investigators report that schizophrenia outcomes have worsened over past 20 years, and are now no better than in first decades of 20th century

            1995 “Real-world” relapse rates for schizophrenia patients treated with neuroleptics said to be above 80% in two years following hospital discharge, which is much higher than in pre-neuroleptic era

            1995 “Quality of life” in drug-treated patients reported to be “very poor”

            1998 MRI studies show that neuroleptics appear to cause hypertrophy of the caudate, putamen, and thalamus, with the increase “associated with greater severity of both negative and positive symptoms”

            1998 Neuroleptic use is found to be associated with atrophy of the cerebral cortex

            1998 Harvard researchers conclude that “oxidative stress” may be the process by which neuroleptics cause neuronal damage in the brain

            1998 Treatment with two or more neuroleptics is found to increase risk of early death

            2000 Neuroleptics linked to fatal blood clots

            2000 TD linked to early death

            2003 Risk of early death for schizophrenia patients is found to have increased since introduction of atypical antipsychotics

            2005 NIMH researchers report that atypical antipsychotics provide few, if any, benefits compared to old neuroleptics

            2006 Suicide rate for schizophrenic patients is reported to be 20 times higher today than it was a century ago

            2007 British researchers report that quality-of-life was better on old drugs than on atypicals

            2007 Illinois investigators report that long-term recovery rates for unmedicated schizophrenia patients are eight times higher than for medicated patients

            Duane

      • You just have to look at the “Open Dialog” approach to disprove the theory that you can’t talk your way through a psychotic episode and to healing. 80% of those having psychotic experiences are able to heal through the use of communication and social interventions. The vast majority maintain without any medication, or were given medication only briefly. If this is all a brain-based phenomenon, how on earth does such a large percentage of the Finnish population recover with Open Dialog, which is primarily a “talking cure,” when US full recovery rates hover in the single digits? If nothing else, the proof lies in the almost complete ineffectiveness of the medication interventions over time. Not one medical intervention for anxiety, depression, ADHD, or psychosis, has been shown to create positive long-term outcomes for patients, whether talking about education levels, employment, relationships, or community involvement. The drugs may help people with short-term symptom management, but if you read Whitaker with an open mind, it should be clear that many of those who would spontaneously recover are sucked into a world of psychiatric insanity, just as Laura describes. The fact that some individuals can receive this kind of care and still recover doesn’t mean the care led them to recovery. The overall evidence is that we’re making people worse as a big group, even if some individuals do better or feel they do better with the drugs.

        I don’t think anyone is trying to take away drugs as an option. We’re trying to look at what the institutional practice of psychiatry is doing to its own patients and to our society as a whole. The training you are receiving is just another reflection of that insidious influence. You’re already being indoctrinated to believe the “chemical imbalance” story before you’ve even had enough clinical experience to make up your own mind. Your education should be enabling you to make your own observations about what is helpful to your clients. Instead, it wants to convince you of a mythology that science has already refuted. Please, keep your mind open – Laura’s experience is far from unique.

        — Steve

      • Nijinsky (3:06am),

        You’ve made a number of very compelling points. You’re entirely right that the comparison drawn between psychosis and a drug trip was crude and insensitive – my apologies to any who may have been offended by it. I have struggled with, albeit moderate, psychosis myself and certainly don’t mean to suggest that it’s equivalent to a drug trip (which I’ve also, um, experienced a number of times). I will point out that drug use can induce psychosis – indeed, that was one factor in my own experience of it (synthetic cannabinoids, I highly recommend avoiding those!), which is one reason why I get frustrated by the whole “marijuana can’t be bad for you” argument one hears from legalization advocates. Anyway, that last point is neither here nor there. Bottom line: I did not mean to trivialize the experience of psychosis by comparing it to a drug trip.

        What I was trying to get at, in a rather poorly worded attempt, was that (1) chemicals can have really profound effects on perception and cognition, so there’s no reason to think that psychosis couldn’t arise from “mere” chemical reactions (that’s what everything arises from!) and (2) if chemicals can have such effects then, in principle, it should be possible for chemicals to counter disruptions in these processes (which is what is happening when psychosis abates for *any* reason — getting in touch with whatever one may get in touch with is itself a chemical process).

        You’re absolutely right that my not “seeing” how something could be doesn’t mean that it *can’t* be, only that I don’t see it. No question, I agree. I didn’t mean that to be a statement of truth-with-a-capital-T (this *means* it’s not possible), just that I was thinking psychosis seems a little different than, say, anhedonia, in this respect. And fair enough, I stand corrected – various other means can mitigate psychosis. I know that for me, being on anti-psychotics seemed to help (*seemed* – I can’t say for sure that they did, of course, we’re not talking careful science there, just my perception). That was when my then-moderate psychosis was not as mild as it is today – I essentially don’t have true psychotic features at this point in time, just little hints of it, which I deal with by applying other tools from the proverbial toolbox.

        Let’s set aside psychosis, then, shall we? How about anhedonia (crudely defined here as lack of pleasure)…can drugs alleviate anhedonia? I’d argue that yes, they can. Why? Because they can target the reward-reinforcement circuitry such that pleasurable experiences are responded to as they are in the absence of depression. Are current anti-depressants the very best we could ever do? No way. Do they seem to work for some people? Yes. Do other non-pharma treatments seem to work as well or even better? Yes. Does that mean that no patient will benefit from the inclusion of an anti-depressant in their treatment? No. What is true on average is not necessarily true for any individual.

        Look, even if psychiatry is wrong about every current drug on the market, the answer is not to do away with psychiatry, it’s to make it better. The basis of the argument to the contrary is that this is in-principle impossible. The other argument, I suppose, is that *all* people can *always* get better without pharmacological treatment. That’s a very strong statement…

        Best wishes,

        Layla

        • You’re admitting to operating on a reductionist assumption that “everything arises from chemicals.” You have presented no evidence of that. And you haven’t countered my evidence that large percentages of so-called “schizophrenics,” including many who are posting here on MIA, have recovered without or in spite of chemical treatment. How does Open Dialog work at all if these folks are experiencing solely chemical/biological problems? The emphasis of Open Dialog is on the meaning of experiences and relationships between people in the client’s life. How can that be effective against a chemical problem? And why is it 10 times more effective than the chemical approach, which appears FROM THE DATA to impede recovery far more often than it assists?

          — Steve

          • As I’ve discussed in other posts – my views fall under what in philosophy is known as physicalism, namely, I believe that the mind IS the brain. More broadly, I’m inclined to believe that everything in the universe is physical (I’d like to clarify that I don’t buy into a lot of conclusions that one might think follow from this premise — I don’t claim to known anything about whether or not there’s an afterlife, I don’t think “everything is physical” rules out a spiritual side in life (and beyond) – my conception of spirituality involves it being a physical thing, which may sound counterintuitive, but in my view “physical” does not equal “not special/not meaningful/not astonishing/etc.” After all, our existence is all those things (special, meaningful, and astonishing), and I believe it’s entirely physical). Some spiritual traditions posit a connection between all beings in the universe – I’m on board, just think such a connection is/would be physical, in terms of its fundamental nature. One can’t “prove” this position, and for some, it may never make sense. We do, however, have compelling evidence that the mind is, in many important ways (don’t have to accept it is in all ways for the general point to stand), identical to the brain.

            Here is how I understand something like open dialogue: chemical does not mean “only influenced by drugs/exogenous substances.” Conversations operate on the same chemical processes that drugs do; so does everything else we experience. Let’s take drug craving as an example: if I’m addicted to a drug, my brain learns to respond to cues that have been paired with drug intake (e.g., a particular location, paraphernalia, etc.) – the feeling of craving is a chemical response to these learned associations. You can rewire the brain to “unlearn” this association and thereby reduce cravings (to an extent, for most recovering addicts the risk of cue-induced relapse remains for a very long time, even a lifetime) by *behaving* differently. That is, by changing habits, you change the brain – you *rewire* the brain. All of the changes take place at the level of chemical — and electrical — activity. It doesn’t feel like this when you’re living it – it feels like, well, addiction recovery (becoming free from the overwhelming urge to use), which refers to the same change process but does so from a higher level of analysis. What is “recovery”? It’s rewiring of brain systems, and rewiring means acting on chemical processes.

            The brain can be rewired in many different ways, ingesting exogenous chemicals – i.e., taking drugs — is one way, but it is certainly not the only way. We don’t need to understand brain re-wiring to make use of it in changing ourselves – Aristotle was talking about brain rewiring when he said that virtue of character is cultivated by habit (the habit of acting virtuously). We do need to understand it, quite well, to make use of it in pharmacological treatments. Are we there yet? I honestly don’t know. Can we get there? I would argue yes, we can, and we mostly will.

          • Since there’s no reply button below, this is in reply to Layla’s comment, February 26, 2:33 pm: I wholeheartedly agree that our relationships, our life experience, shape the wiring and functioning of our brains. However, there’s a problem with your reasoning, and it’s about the same as with the reasoning of the researchers in the TV program about “depression” that I watched the other day. It’s not the weather or the latest fashion that is talked about in Open Dialogue’s network meetings. The aim of these network meetings is to uncover dysfunctionality in interpersonal relationships, and have an open and honest, a functional, dialogue about them. If the team succeeds to bring the dysfunctionality in the interpersonal relationships to light, and the involved individuals find words for what before didn’t have words, there’s no more need to express it in a metaphorical, “symptomatic”, way. The “patient” is “cured”.

            According to your logic, whether there has been any not-spoken-of dysfunctionality/trauma, or not, in the labeled person’s life is of no further relevance. Neither is it of relevance whether you then, in therapy (or in network meetings), talk about the never before talked about trauma, or about the latest fashion. All you, as a therapist and in addition to talking about the latest fashion, have to do is ask the ”patient” to, please, rewire their brain. This is what cognitive-behavioral ”therapies” try to do. In the short term, these ”therapies” seem to work, sometimes even better than other, trauma-informed therapies that, obviously, take a lot more time. However, in the long run the cognitive-behavioral ”please rewire your brain!” therapies produce a relatively high relapse rate. Simply because what got your brain wired in a certain way in the first place never got resolved. All your ”therapy” provided you with were a few new ”coping strategies”, new ways to repress, respectively deny that which the coping strategies you had developed on your own no longer were sufficient to suppress, respectively deny, why you ended up in crisis. Those new coping strategies may save you for a while, they may work for a while. But if you think the unconscious can be tricked with a few new coping strategies, you have no idea of its power. Its power goes beyond all human imagination. No one and nothing tricks the unconscious.

            If you want to live your life in fear of the unconscious, trying to trick it, running from it, calling it a ”mental illness”, or if you at some point maybe muster the courage to turn around and face yourself, your real self, well, that’s up to you. It remains a fact though that it is the people who’ve stopped running and fighting – and trying to explain away –, the people who turned around and were no longer afraid of understanding the meaning in their madness in a life-historical context, the reason for their ”brain processing gone awry”, as you call it in another comment here, the people who understand that it wasn’t any brain processing gone awry causing their crisis, but their mind’s outstanding ability to have their brain produce the for their survival necessary reactions to life, who recover fully.

      • @madincanada “The reason for this is that the psychiatrist sees the person when they are at their best,…” Not true. Hardly anywhere else than locked up at a psych ward and forcibly “treated” do people feel more (and righteously) threatened, and react with more desperation defending their life (= “psychosis”). Psychiatrists are at least as, if not more, afraid of extreme emotions and reactions as anybody else. Actually, some of the people I’ve seen who were most afraid of these were psychiatrists.

        “As for the person with psychosis he doesn’t remember his psychotic episodes so in retrospect he doesn’t think he was sick.” Definitely not true either. If your son doesn’t remember his “psychotic episodes”, there are two possible explanations: his “episodes”, whatever they are, aren’t “psychotic”, or there’s something not quite functioning in your communication with your son, why he may have decided that the easiest way out is to tell you that he doesn’t remember. A medical/neurological check can exclude the first. If it’s the second, start listening to your son, and try to understand. You may want to stop telling him that he’s sick, which inevitably translates into: “I don’t want to hear what you have to say”. Then maybe, he even will recover.

  9. I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I have been treated at a psychiatric hospital that I suspect, given your references to Harvard Medical School, is the same “hospital on the hill” where you feel you were indoctrinated. I have also been told there that I have “serious mental illness,” which I didn’t need to be told because I already knew it to be the case. I have also been hospitalized as an inpatient, including one involuntary admission. It was indeed painful and traumatic to be locked up against my will, but I am very grateful that I was, for if I hadn’t been, I almost certainly wouldn’t be alive today. I do not feel defined by my illness any more than I feel defined by other parts of who I am. I am a person who suffers from mental illness; I am not the illness. No treater at the hospital or anywhere else has led me to believe any differently, nor have I perceived any effort on their part to do so. I am doing well today, living a full and productive life that I enjoy. For me, it is because of psychiatry and psychology, not in spite of it.

    • “I am a person who suffers from mental illness; I am not the illness.” People suffer from real, somatic illness, and they are not this illness. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this when it comes to so-called “mental illness”. In one of your comments above you state that our behavior, our emotions, our thoughts, the sum of which is who we are in the world, is shaped by our brains. If this is so, a diseased brain inevitably will shape who you are in this world as a manifestation of the supposed disease: you are the disease. And of course the staff at the hospital and elsewhere told you so; by labeling you. Nobody needs to say literally to another person, “You are your mental illness”. It’s perfectly implicit in the labels themselves that you are your label.

    • And sorry, but I’m really not terrified of “psychosis.” I don’t feel the need to conjure up conspiracy theories about what it might do if untreated. I don’t need to invest in the belief I’m eradicating it by causing chemical imbalance, brain damage and loss of life; and say this is treating a chemical and enhancing life. I don’t need to invest in disabling myself by harming my brain would it start catching on to what’s going on and dissent. And I don’t need to invest in a method that correlates with creating more of what it purports to heal. I actually dare to respond to life…

    • What I find hilarious is that Layla begins her comments on MiA with a stern warning to Laura against indicting psychiatry by using anecdotal evidence based on Laura’s own personal experience. Bad Laura! Then Layla proceeds to try to defend the validity of the psychiatric industry by using – wait for it – anecdotal evidence based on Layla’s own personal experience! What a riot. And then Layla peppers her “arguments” with silly claims about brain pathologies and even “evidence” of depression in non-humans and anxiety in rodents! LMAO! How could we ever measure the “mental” states of non-humans? Have them “describe how they feel and what sorts of thoughts they are having” to use Layla’s description of the diagnostic process.

      I can’t wait to hear more of her insights on the “science of human experience”(?) and the “science of psychology.” I can always use a good laugh – most therapeutic. Thank you, Layla.

      • I actually wasn’t using my experience to suggest anything other than that some patients *can* and *do* have what they feel were helpful, positive experiences with psychiatry. This is proved by my anecdotal evidence — it is one of the few things anecdotal evidence can prove (the existence/possibility of something; if it exists in one case, it exists/is possible, period). The point, actually, was to show how easy it is to refute strong claims grounded in anecdotal evidence – all one needs to do is find an anecdote showing the opposite and the strong claim is undermined. Of course I haven’t “proved” the validity of psychiatry by sharing my experience; there are far too many ways to explain my experience that don’t depend on psychiatry’s being valid.

        As for the animal models – of course we can’t measure directly what they’re feeling. Here’s a little bit about how it works for anxiety in rodents: rats and mice are afraid of tall, open spaces – fear of heights and exposure, basically, so researchers capitalize on this natural fear by building mazes (there are two main kinds) that have enclosed, dark portions, and open, light portions, then they put the animals in and see how much time they spend in each kind. Administering drugs that have anti-anxiety properties in humans causes the animals to spend more time in the enclosed, light portions than they do in the absence of those drugs. A simpler model just uses light side/dark side of a cage. The inference is that the drugs reduced their fear, made them less anxious, so to speak. For depression: monkeys work well, you can see how much time they spend hunched over, sitting passively, versus exploring their enclosure. With rodents there’s the forced swim test, learned helplessness paradigms with electric shocks, and using persistence in feeding themselves despite receiving a shock every time they press the lever that delivers food as a measure of their motivation to satisfy drives. My objection to all of this is the cruelty inflicted upon animals, which gets me seething because I do not believe there is such a thing as a “lesser being” in any sense that justifies this torture. Bentham’s insight (“the question is not do they reason, but do they suffer?”) was spot on. To me, no end from medical research (any, not just psych) justifies these means. Anyway, that’s a whole other can of worms.

        You may laugh, but what I’m saying, however unclearly or inaccurately, is based on many years of research, performed by good scientists (by good I mean careful, adherents of the scientific method). If you don’t even understand how animal models can be used, I doubt you have an in-depth understanding of much when it comes to this research. Rather than laugh, try learning (not from me, from the research itself). Then you will be in a position to critique comments like mine in a way that doesn’t depend on misstating my argument (re: anecdotal evidence) or ignorance (re: animal models). I appreciate constructive criticism, it helps me learn, but you didn’t offer anything constructive, which is a shame. What’s the point in mocking? What might that get you or me or anyone else who reads it?

        • There would be no point in offering constructive criticism to somebody as thoroughly indoctrinated as you.

          So, monkeys hunched over and sitting passively are depressed? Really? That could be a description of somebody with a bad headache.

          What’s YOUR point in posting comments here? What does it get you or anyone else who reads your regurgitated factoids? (That is, besides the obvious amusement value.)

          • Well, no, the monkeys aren’t *just* hunched over – it’s one measure (amount of spontaneous activity). And their behavior is compared to that when they are not under the influence of whatever drug or procedure is attempting to induce depression. If you don’t think you can make an animal depressed, try torturing your dog for a little while (don’t really! you can just go to a factory farm anyway…any meat-eaters open to vegetarianism I can convert on here? See Alastair Norcross “Puppies, Pigs, and People”!) You say I’m providing factoids, I say I’m providing – however ineptly – a different perspective. That of patient who also happens to be working toward a career in the mental health system. Someone who has experienced first-hand the good, the bad, and the ugly of psychiatry, doesn’t feel visceral contempt for the field, and has studied cognitive science, developmental/cognitive/social psychology, and clinical psychology.

            You may condescend and label me “indoctrinated” but I am perfectly willing to listen to other viewpoints and think carefully about what is raised in them (see my responses to other comments; I’m not just trying to shut down anything, or anyone, that/who doesn’t agree with what I currently think). The responses to my posts suggest that I’m being viewed as a pro-psychistry zealot, which I’m not, and as “one of them,” but turning it into an us-vs-them doesn’t allow anyone other than people already in full agreement to be part of the conversation. And that, I suppose, is my point, well one of them, in posting here.

            What is my point? It is (1) to offer a perspective from a more middle-of-the-road position – psychiatry has lots of problems, it can and does do some good, it needs and ought to be improved. I’d call that pretty balanced. Neither pro nor anti psychiatry, per se, a mix of both. (2) Related to (1), to bring in a different viewpoint to a conversation that seems to be very much insular. Talking to and hearing from only those who share your view has a way of reinforcing it without critical thought. If nothing else, I can serve as a stand-in for people who don’t agree, which allows all here to get a sense of what someone like me (a patient who doesn’t hate psychiatrists) might say and to formulate responses to those of us who hold more moderate views. I’m not getting anything out of this – in fact, it has been rather draining. I’m writing because I think that the perspective of people, like Laura, who have had really negative experiences with psychiatry can offer such valuable insight to the dialogue. I just wish it were more tempered and less black-and-white.

        • There is very little scientific “research” carried out by psychiatry these days. Everything is done by the drug companies and then they have some psychiatrists sign their name to the studies! Nothing like letting the fox take care of the hens; nothing like a little conflict of interest to stir things up! Where do you get your so-called scientific information from?

    • So to reply to your reply: your philosophy drives your beliefs, and makes you more willing to believe in the psychiatrists’ story about what makes “mental illness” happen. I’m not criticizing you for this, merely pointing out that this discussions stopped being about science the moment you chose to put that philosophical assumption into place. We all do this, of course, to some extent. But to be fully scientific, we have to be aware of these biases and recognize they are biases and not facts. Doesn’t make them WRONG, only, as you admit, unprovable.

      So we move to the world of psychiatry. The writers of the DSM operate on a similar and maybe even more reductionistic model, truly eliminating any possibility of spiritual influence on the body. So they’re left with brain chemicals, and all of their experiments and treatments have to do with brain chemicals and all of their conclusions are about brain chemicals. These people make sense to you because you have the same assumptions as them. But their beliefs (like yours) are NOT scientifically verifiable. There is no scientific basis for ANY of these so-called mental illnesses, not one. They are literally decided and voted on by COMMITTEE. There is not one test for any mental disorder – there can’t be, because they’re not defined by pathology. They’re defined by committee and then the assumed “cause” is sought after the fact. Surely, you can see that this is not a scientific process.

      More significantly, the treatments used by psychiatry HAVE been shown scientifically to cause damage. These supposed scientists know all about Open Dialog and Soteria House and other non-drug interventions, none of which has any risk of physiological harm. If they are so enlightened and scientific, why do they avoid even talking about these treatments, and why do they find them so threatening? It’s because they know on some level that their philosophy and treatment approach is deeply flawed, but admitting it means admitting they are doing harm, and also giving up on a lot of income.

      You were fortunate. You had rational providers who did pretty much what Bob Whitaker recommends – used drugs judiciously, on a temporary basis, while adding psychosocial interventions to obviate the need for ongoing symptom relief. Believe me, after working for 20+ years in the field, I can tell you, this is not how most people do it. In fact, it’s a rare exception.

      My last comment. You say that we can rewire our brains. If we’re all chemicals, who is doing the rewiring? Someone’s WRITING the program, folks. That someone is who we really are, and it appears to be that we USE the brain to run the body. But who WE are remains a very large mystery, one that the reductionistic model used by psychiatry avoids, because they have no explanation for it.

      — Steve

    • You are one of the very lucky ones. You are not the typical. It seems like you feel the need to believe in this construct known as “mental illness.” Could you share why you accept this? Have you ever read any of the writings of John W. Perry? He was a great psychologist. Have you read anything by Jung? There is no scientific proof of the existence of anything called “mental illness.” It might help to begin expanding your reading into wider areas.

  10. I kind of hate to disagree with you on this, Laura, but I do not view psychiatry as a “cult”.

    … in too many places, it functions as a State Religion. Note how religious delusions, and other “commonly held delusions”, are exempted from diagnosis as instances of “Delusional Disorder” in the DSM?

    That’s… “symptomatic”.

    thanks very much for your post!

    sincerely,
    – bonzie anne

  11. Laura, Thanks for your blow against the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex(PPIC). Let me say first of all in response to your critics that if they were correct— if the belief system into which you say you were indoctrinated (albeit somewhat willingly) was really 1) a severe “mental illness” (“manic-depression”) caused by maternal deprivation as an infant (the psychoanalytic view that dominated up until the 1980s), or 2) a bipolar disorder caused by a genetically inadequate brain (the current bio-psychiatric view),faulty due to one biological anomaly or another, e.g., a tendency to become bio-chemically imbalanced—- you would not have been able to read a book that triggered a spiritual crisis, an existential decision and a consequent metanoia which, accompanied by your getting off your “medications,” led to radical and lasting positive changes in your life.It led to what I call, following Laing, a spiritual “breakthrough.” No if they were correct you would not have been able to escape from 1) without years of psychoanalysis, a continuous regimen of psychiatric drugs and extraordinary luck.
    From 2) there is no escape. You would live out your doomed existence dutifully taking your plethora of meds just like the diabetic takes her insulin. You have poignantly described how miserable such an existence is––both because of the gnawing sense that there is something essentially wrong with you and because psychiatric medications are poisons that make one sick and dis-abled. Your critics have no way to account for your existence today ––except to deny it, or claim you were misdiagnosed.

    Although I agree with many of the brilliant arguments of canotsay I must say that there is no such freedom from the PPIC in America. There never was–even before it was a gargantuan industry. Had there been I might still be working in the mental health system today. Many times patients challenged their imprisonment on the basis that they were not a danger to anyone. The hospital psychiatrist never had to meet ANY standard of proof. As Jonah astutely pointed out de jure is not de facto. The judges almost always did what the hospital psychiatrist requested. In fact the mere fact of disagreeing that one had a mental illness was proof one was psychotic, treatment- resistant and dangerous. Tina Minkowitz, who is a blogger here, actually did a study of the Brooklyn civil court for 2 years. Not once did the lower court judge rule on behalf of the patient. This is significant because it getting worse as the PPIC has become greater and more pervasive. 44 states have out-patient commitment laws. We can expect that the full weight of the state will brought to bear upon those who rebel.

    Anyone who doubts this does not understand the nature and the extent of corporate power in the United States. It is due to the colonization of all civil institutions by corporate power that Occupy Wal St began in America. Friends of mine tell me it’s not as bad yet in England. (Some states may be better than others, eg Vermont.)

    There were several defenders of psychiatry who were trenchantly answered by other posters. Let me just briefly
    remind people and point out to Layla that psychiatry does not claim to have any evidence that the various “mental disorders” are caused by brain pathology. No one said Layla that it was not theoretically possible. But brain disorders are the province of neurologists, not psychiatrists, as Thomas Szasz pointed out. David Oaks and the MindFreedom hunger strikers in 2003 won that battle after several months. They challenged the APA to present evidence of brain pathology and the lab tests used to diagnose it. The APA answered promptly––perhaps because the strike was covered by the LA Times. But it was evasive. It implied there was evidence that schizophrenia was caused by brain pathology. Where is the evidence, David said. Finally in Sept 2003, after the hunger strikers had resumed eating, the APA put out a press release rebuking the strikers for their “impatience” with Science. They admitted: “Brain science has not advanced to the point where scientists
    or clinicians can point to readily discernible pathologic lesions or genetic abnormalities that in and of themselves serve as reliable or predictive biomarkers of a given mental disorder or mental disorders as a group. ” This incident is recounted in my recent book on the history and future of the Mad Pride movement, THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF MADNESS (Inner Traditions, 2012) available through Amazon. (The documents can be found at http://www.mindfreedom.org)

    So Layla you can maintain your faith in the modern snake oil salesmen–as David Healy calls them– who work for the PPIC and wrap themselves in the mantle of Science. Although their product(including the ascribed “diagnosis”) makes most people miserable, even those who cling to it, it makes you happy.
    But they cannot explain Laura––not honestly. They can say her truth is merely anecdotal, or something absurd.
    Seth
    Seth Farber, Ph.D.
    http://www.sethHfarber.com

    • Seth,

      I deeply appreciate what you say here in all ways, except one. You decry, “faith in the modern snake oil salesmen–as David Healy calls them– who work for the PPIC and wrap themselves in the mantle of Science.”

      You wind up deferring to David Healy, as an effect of *limiting* your criticisms to the PPIC (“psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex”); thus, you do great disservice to those who have been harmed – and those who will be harmed, henceforward – by shock therapy (a.k.a., ‘electroconvulsive therapy’/ ECT).

      In my view (and not mine alone), David Healy is *himself* a snake oil salesman wrapping himself in the mantle of Science, no less than any devotee of the PPIC.

      Read Healy’s own book (co-authored with Edward Shorter), which explains:

      “Our research convinces us that ECT is an important, responsible, and reliable therapy that deserves to be more widely used…” and, “…there should be little controversy over whether it is safe or effective. Somatic therapies like ECT easily trump anything in the psychopharmaceutical medicine chest as the most effective treatment for such severe illnesses as melancholic depression, catatonia, or manic excitement; it also has a place in the treatment of schizophrenia,” and, “Why today, seventy years after its discovery, is ECT highly stigmatized, both among patients and many physicians? ECT is, in a sense, the penicillin of psychiatry. We would be baffled if the benefits of penicillin were not widely touted in the patients’ world, lauded by the press, and accepted as a matter of fact by medical doctors. Why has this not happened with ECT? The question is especially important because there are a great many people with depression who do not respond to antidepressant drugs.” (pages 3 and 4)

      Their “research convinces” them of conclusions that are roundly disputed by *real* researchers.

      (Just Google and study, “The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: A literature review,” a paper by John Read and Richard Bentall, which concludes: “Continued use of ECT [is] a failure to introduce ideals of evidence-based medicine into psychiatry…”)

      Please, follow the next link I provide here, at last; read at least this one review, of that Healy/Shorter 2007 book (“Shock Therapy: A History of Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness”); it is quite telling: http://www.ect.org/book-review-shock-therapy-by-david-healy-edward-shorter-and-max-fink/

      Yes, David Healy does some good by critiquing the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex, but the quality of his research is highly questionable, and he should not be held up, as an example of psychiatric virtuosity, in my humble opinion.

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

      “The most important step in any reform must be the abolition of involuntary psychiatric treatment or hospitalization.” ~ Peter Breggin, M.D. (Electroshock, its brain-disabling effects, 1979)

  12. I don’t have time to respond to all the replies to my posts, nor did I have time to respond very carefully to those I did.

    A general comment: Laura’s experience is not representative of all who have entered the mental health system. I am not alone in this belief; many of my fellow “hospital-on-the-hill” patients agree that her experience does not represent theirs. Attacking the entire profession of psychiatry as an evil empire is counterproductive. If you really want to change psychiatry, you have to factor in perspectives like my own because the evidence “I had a bad experience with it” can easily be countered with accounts from people like me who say “I had a good experience with it.” Saying that mental illness is a natural expression of the mind that shouldn’t be “corrected” invalidates the experience of people like me who feel that we couldn’t just “find it within ourselves” to change the way we felt. Finally, if you’re going to argue against a science, you must be able to speak intelligently in the language of that science, otherwise, you will not be taken seriously. This means that you need to have an in-depth understanding of the research that has been produced, which can’t come from reading someone else’s critique of the science. The mainstream isn’t engaging with these arguments because the mainstream can easily dismiss them.

    Note that Robert Whitaker himself takes a far less extreme position:

    “This does not mean that antipsychotics don’t have a place in psychiatry’s toolbox. But it does mean that psychiatry’s use of these drugs needs to be rethought, and fortunately, a model of care pioneered by a Finnish group in western Lapland provides us with an example of the benefit that can come from doing so. Twenty years ago, they began using antipsychotics in a selective, cautious manner, and today the long-term outcomes of their first-episode psychotic patients are astonishingly good. At the end of five years, 85% of their patients are either working or back in school, and only 20% are taking antipsychotics.” (from HuffPost in 2010)

    That paragraph is nuanced. “Take down the evil empire” just isn’t.

    • It’s the same line used to defend homeopathy, anecdotal evidence that patient X was helped.

      When it comes to show the actual evidence, it turns out that psychiatry is no better than placebos (see Irving Kirsch’s work on the efficacy of anti depressants). And I agree, psychiatry should have the same legal status as homeopathy. It should have no business in committing people or providing “insanity” defenses to criminals.

      What is particular to psychiatry however it’s people like us. I have never heard of a “homeopathy survivor group” or an “astrology survivor group”. Yet, There are plenty of psychiatry survivor groups. I bet that we in the psychiatric survivor movement are more numerous than those who claim to have been helped by psychiatry. We are disorganized and we don’t have any support whatsoever from institutionalized psychiatry, and that plays against us, but I am sure that we are higher in number.

    • Layla,

      You have written (above), to Laura: “if you educated yourself more about the science of psychology (again, the broader definition of psychology, not just clinical psychology), then you could work toward an end that isn’t so futile.” And, you say, “There most certainly is evidence of structural and functional changes in the brains of people with schizophrenia.”

      Great, you refer to, “the science of psychology…” – and that you’re studying it – because, what you get, on this MIA page, is much response from critics of psychiatry. Basically, here, on this page, many would ask: ‘Why should *psychiatrists* – of all people – have *anything* to do with these sufferings?’

      I do not begrudge anyone the choice to consult with a psychiatrist; what I object to is the fact that Psychiatry *imposes* itself, on people – forcibly intruding upon the workings of their brains.

      Psychiatrists are physicians – medical doctors; and, plainly, “schizophrenia” is *not* a scientifically valid *medical* diagnosis. “Schizophrenia” is, to the contrary, a very vaguely defined umbrella term. (Note: According to Wikipedia, “The rate of schizophrenia varies up to threefold depending on how it is defined.”) It is a label referring to *countless* individual cases of seemingly protracted ‘psychosis,’ worldwide. (And, “psychosis” itself is an umbrella term, vaguely defined; so, to officially observe, that a supposed ‘psychosis’ exists and is persisting, is a matter of *subjective* professional perception.)

      There are no physical tests to establish, that ‘it’ (“schizophrenia”) even exists, physically. None.

      Perhaps, the vast majority of cases, of presumed “schizophrenia” go *unexplained* psychologically, because the majority of psychiatrists, who give that diagnosis, choose to believe there is no psychological explanation; they are focused on the notion that ‘it’ is a “brain disorder” – despite the fact, there’s *no* biological marker, which either defines any case of presumed “schizophrenia,” as such – let alone, which ties all presumed “schizophrenia” cases together.

      My saying all this is not to diminish any *sufferings* that people self-report; simply, I believe good *psychological* explanations could rather easily be offered for much or most of what is called, “schizophrenia”; only, they are not offered – typically – because psychiatrists (being medical doctors) are not trained to look for them. (In fact, they’re generally trained to *deny* them.) Also, I believe certain food sensitivities, addictions and malnutrition can trigger such sufferings, in many instances (and/or, such may become the proverbial straw, which breaks the camel’s back); such causes are, of course, highly biological.

      Indeed, certain drugs which effect the brain adversely can cause effects associated with ‘psychosis’ (as can *withdrawal* effects from certain drugs); but, *psychological* and *social* factors are key to any situation, in which one is being officially deemed ‘psychotic’; and, to presume the brain is at fault is nonsensical. The following link is to an article titled, “It’s all done with smoke and mirrors. Or, how to create the illusion of a schizophrenic brain disease” – by clinical psychologist, Mary Boyle, of University of East London (who explains, “An impression of meaningful association between “schizophrenia” and biological variables is created […] by failing to specify the degree of overlap between “schizophrenic” and comparison groups and by misleadingly presenting group differences in a particular factor…”): http://www.critpsynet.freeuk.com/Boyle.htm

      One can watch Professor Boyle speaking in conference, in 2004, on Youtube, via the following link (The uploader comment explains, that Professor Boyle, “carves through the bad science, lack of balanced reporting, and sheer lies that provide the so called ‘scientific’ evidence for a genetic link to ‘schizophrenia’.”): http://www.pccs-books.co.uk/products/madness-contested-1/#.USruL3lAOSp

      [NOTE: As opposed to offering the Youtube link, I provided the link to that web page, where I found the Youtube…; for, there’s a new book being advertised there – looks interesting: “Madness Contested,” by three clinical psychologists, who are *not* hesitant to criticize psychiatry: Steven Coles, who is questioning, “how power is used and misused within mental health services and society,”.Sarah Keenan, whose focused upon, “how social context influences distress, and how and why these influences and expressions of distress are often medicalised or minimised within mental health services,” and Bob Diamond, who, “sought to establish a psychological presence whilst questioning the oppressive dominance of psychiatry.” (I believe all three are based in the U.K..]

      I wish you good luck in your studies (especially, your studies of mindfulness).

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

      • Jonah,

        You make some excellent points. I agree, we get into very dangerous waters when psychiatrists are brought in rather than sought out. I also agree that schizophrenia is a rather questionable medical diagnosis at this time. There’s much disagreement within the field that calls attention to this (e.g., papers written by Keshavan, Nasrallah, and Tandon; Bentall, Jackson, and Pilgrim). However, that there is such a thing as mental illness, and that it has to do with brain processing gone awry seems to me to be very well-established indeed.

        Best wishes

        Layla

        • Layla,

          You say, “there is such a thing as mental illness, and that it has to do with brain processing gone awry seems to me to be very well-established indeed.”

          I wonder what you mean by, “mental illness”? …because, to my way of thinking, ‘illness’ cannot be mental; it must be corporeal (physical); and, I do not believe “brain processing gone awry” describes anything except an *extremely* vague, unsubstantiated theory.

          The late Thomas Szasz, began one great essay of his (online here: http://www.szasz.com/freeman13.html), by explaining: “A 1999 White House Conference on Mental Health concluded: ‘Research in the last decade proves that mental illnesses are diagnosable disorders of the brain.’” He continued, “President William Clinton was more specific: ‘Mental illness can be accurately diagnosed, successfully treated, just as physical illness.’”

          Szasz then went on, to detail a bit of history, as follows…

          “… The idea that mental illness is a bodily disease dates back to the premodern medical conception of disease as a “humoral imbalance,” comically prefiguring the modern, supposedly scientific conception of it as “chemical imbalance.” In the United States, the idea of mental illness as humoral imbalance was famously espoused by Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), the founding father American psychiatry. Rush did not discover that certain behaviors are diseases; he decreed that they are: “Lying,” he declared, “is a corporeal disease.” In a letter to his friend, John Adams, he wrote: “The subjects [mental diseases] have hitherto been enveloped in mystery. I have endeavored to bring them down to the level of all other diseases of the human body, and to show that the mind and the body are moved by the same causes and subject to the same laws.” …”

          It seems to me, Szasz was subtly understating the really profound irony, in this fact, that: the ‘founding father’ of American psychiatry called “lying” a “corporeal disease”; and, I think it highly significant: the American Psychiatric Association, to this day, maintains the image of that man (Benjamin Rush), as their featured icon, in their masthead – *and* are proudly featuring Bill Clinton (a President made famous for his ‘little white lies’) as keynote speaker, at their upcoming, 2013, annual meeting, in May – which coincides with the release of their latest version of their guiding liturgy (DSM-5). [Anyone can check out their website, Psych.org, and see brewing tragicomedy.]

          What follows is the concluding paragraph, of that above-mentioned Szasz essay (which is titled, “MENTAL ILLNESS AS BRAIN DISEASE: A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON”):

          “…Psychiatric practice today requires that doctors and patients ignore evidence and be ignorant of history. There was no evidence for a humoral imbalance causing illness, but the doctrine prevailed for two thousand years. There is no evidence for a chemical imbalance causing mental illness, but that does not impair the doctrine’s scientific standing or popularity. Neither the American Psychiatric Association nor American presidents remind people of the caveat of the great nineteenth-century English neurologist, John Hughlings Jackson (1835-1911): “Our concern as medical men is with the body. If there be such a thing as disease of the mind, we can do nothing for it.” “

          By the way, I do thank you for your kind response; really, I don’t expect responses when I comment, on this site – but especially in this instance, as I know you are being inundated with many replies from others.

          Respectfully,

          ~Jonah

          • Jonah,

            I agree that “brain processing gone awry” is quite vague, but I don’t think it’s inaccurate. My background is in philosophy (that is, my way-back-when background), and I fall in the “physicalism” camp of philosophy of mind. So, what is mental *is* physical – it is corporeal, just as much as anything else. Sight, for example, is an entirely physical process – it involves the eye, of course, but where it really takes place is in the visual cortex (along with some other areas, few brain processes take place in isolation – that is, in just one system or another). Most people don’t have too much trouble buying into this (incidentally, the psychology of perception is *fascinating*! Take vision – the brain has to convert 2D retinal images into a 3D representation of the world, but an infinite # of arrangements “out there” in the world could correspond to the same light pattern hitting the retina…so how does the brain construct the 3D representation? By making assumptions based on regularities in the world. It’s remarkably good at this, but sometimes it assumes wrong (that’s when we experience visual illusions)), but people tend to hit a stumbling block when they get emotion and various other higher-order functions. Before I address that, let me point out that in schizophrenia, hallucinations – let’s take auditory hallucinations, as they are the most common – occur in the auditory cortex. That’s why it seems to the person as though they are really hearing, e.g., voices – because, as far as the brain is concerned, they *are* hearing the voices, just as they would if information about the sounds were coming into the brain through the ears. So, back to emotions, which is where a lot of people have trouble getting on board with physicalism. It just doesn’t feel like emotions could be physical, but then, neither does it *feel* like our brain is doing all that computational work to construct visual representations – we open our eyes and, boom, there’s the world. There are clear evolutionary explanations for emotions; they’re adaptive. I think of emotions as just like sight – they arise from processing that takes place in emotion-processing systems, just like 3D representations of the world take place in visual-processing systems. Either system can “breakdown” so to speak, or be disrupted. It is the auditory cortex that’s doing funky things in the case of auditory hallucinations, and it’s the emotion processing system (e.g., the mesolimbic system and the prefrontal cortex) that’s doing funky things in emotional disorders. Feeling sadness/fear/anger is generally useful in life, it’s adaptive, but sometimes the system goes awry – just like the auditory system sometimes does – and its activity ceases to be adaptive. It tells us (that is, it tells higher-order executive function systems) that we are feeling, e.g., despair, when there’s nothing signaling “it’s time for despair-mode” just as the auditory system tells us we’re hearing something when there’s no corresponding sound waves “out there.”

            So, basically, my point is simply that we are nothing more, and nothing less, than all our systems working together in complex ways – in my view, mental illness is what we call the stuff that happens when some of those systems go awry.

            Best wishes,

            Layla

          • Layla,

            To my way of thinking, your way of thinking about all this is all a bit ‘off’ (i.e., rather confused); you’re *misperceiving* reality in ways, which could, I believe, eventually lead you and/or someone who’s in your care, to ruin.

            Should I presume that your misperceptions are essentially a reflection of your brain processing gone awry”? If not, why not?

            (Can you not see the absurdity in this “brain processing gone awry” hypothesis?)

            To my way of thinking, your “brain processing gone awry” diagnostic theorizing is so utterly without merit (for it is so purely subjective and, thus *full* of holes), I can’t help but view it as activity which ceases to be adaptive – at *least* in the context of these ongoing conversations, on this web page.

            Of course, that’s just my momentary opinion – utilizing yet another incredibly subjective concept you’re offering (“activity ceases to be adaptive”).

            “Brain processing gone awry” can account for literally anything anyone *does* (as well as for any internal experience which one has) that happens to be deemed undesirable, by the person offering that judgment. It is a simple construction – a narrative – to ‘justify’ a choice (that choice being, in the context of these discussions: to accept a certain psychiatrist’s ‘medical’ prescription).

            In my view, that you claim certain “activity ceases to be adaptive” is your value judgment. If you are speaking only of your own activity, I cannot fault you. But, this way of presenting emotional issues and issues of ‘voice hearers’ would present a problem for many, I think (note: you have vastly over-simplified the argument favoring a neurological view of such phenomena); and, you are training to become a professional who might use such notions to ‘justify’ procedures which could possibly be quite harmful.

            In essence, you are articulating ideology which – every day, in most of the larger medical facilities on our planet – becomes the defense of rather radical neurological procedures (largely, but not entirely, in terms of prescribing powerful neuroleptics).

            I recommend you to this New York Times opinion piece, by Professor of Neurology, Oliver Sacks (“Seeing things? Hearing things? Many of us do”): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/opinion/sunday/seeing-things-hearing-things-many-of-us-do.html?_r=0

            And, as you are interested in philosophy, I recommend Raymond Tallis (who was, not long ago, recommended to me, by another psychiatric survivor). What follows are two paragraphs from a review of Tallis’s book (‘Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity’):

            “Tallis is not just concerned with the scientific and philosophical issues; he is also deeply concerned about how the oversimplifications, exaggerations and misconceptions he outlines might downgrade what we humans think, both concerning what we are, and what we might become. For the most part, Tallis attacks in order to defend; and the central concept that he is defending is that of the special place of consciousness, and all that flows from this in our behaviour, culture and society. That is to say, he is defending ‘real’ consciousness – the consciousness that since time immemorial people have assumed that they have, not the compromised or illusory ‘consciousness’ left behind once biological determinism (the notion that physical biological mechanisms, not choices, directly and solely govern our behaviour) have robbed consciousness of freedom and agency.

            “Tallis is apparently well qualified to mount this defence, straddling as he does the sciences and humanities. He was once deeply involved with neurological research, and is now a philosopher [see his regular column in this magazine, ed]. One would be hard pressed to find someone better placed to tackle the issues involved. This is particularly evident in the way he deals with the more technical elements of the book, managing to convey fairly specialised biological information reasonably accessibly to the layperson.”

            http://philosophynow.org/issues/88/Aping_Mankind_Neuromania_Darwinitis_and_the_Misrepresentation_of_Humanity_by_Raymond_Tallis

            And, again, I thank you for a kind reply…

            Respectfully,

            ~Jonah

        • There is such a thing as “mental illness” because we have defined it as such. Look at the DSM. Any one of those diagnoses is rife with subjectivity and potential bias. There is no objective way to diagnose any mental disorder in the book. A person has a “mathematics disorder” because he can’t do math. Is it possible that he was taught in the wrong way? That he wasn’t exposed to sufficient concrete stimulation to form the basis of math? That he simply doesn’t give a crap about math because he’s more interested in skateboarding or the girl sitting in front of him? The exact same argument can be made for ANY mental disorder in the book. There is not one that can be verified.

          Accordingly, it is, of course, ridiculous to suggest that “mental illness” has to do with “brain processing gone awry,” as we can’t even tell what a mental illness is or who has one. This leads to stories like Laura’s. Instead of getting to the bottom of her “bipolar disorder” (namely, normal teenage developmental angst, combined with an inquisitive, non-authoritarian personality and some serious drug side effects that were ignored), she spent years suffering unnecessarily and believing her life was a hopeless disaster. A competent therapist, or even a sensitive adult supporter, could easily have helped her manager her existential conflict with sufficient time and patience, and helped her re-organize her worldview to support her success. Instead, the psychiatric profession labeled her and negated the importance of her own beliefs and experience. The results were disastrous!

          If nothing else, the proof of the weakness of the “brain processing” theory is that the treatments don’t consistently lead to improvement. If you believe Whitaker’s extensive research into the scientific data on long-term outcomes (do you?), it appears we’re making a lot of people worse over time, even if a few may benefit. It all starts from the subjective and biased definition of mental disorders, which is based almost entirely on social norms and biases, with no genuine scientific means of distinguishing between one biological condition and another.

          But you appear to be a ‘true believer’ in the biological model, and I doubt the lack of scientific legitimacy to any of these labels is something you can accept. How about the new proposal to limit intense grieving to two weeks (in the DSM 5)? Where’s the science behind that? If they can make that kind of idiotic and arbitrary assertion, how can you believe the rest of it is any less arbitrary?

          —- Steve

          • Steve,

            I think there are all sorts of problems with the DSM. I accept the biological model in a sense, yes. Setting aside DSM definition, I believe (roughly) what I said in response to Jonah – that the mental illness is what we call the stuff that happens when some neural systems go awry. What does “go awry” mean? Here is where I think a little common sense – still setting aside DSM definitions – is called for. I understand how a cluster of phenomena occur in depression/schizophrenia/addiction/etc., and I’m guessing all of you do too. Forget how we define them or whether they’re “illness” – we know what we’re talking about when we refer to these clusters of phenomena in, say, addiction or PTSD (and what we’re referring to is all the more salient for those who with firsthand experience). I am saying that these clusters of phenomena represent brain processing gone “awry.” These clusters are qualitatively different from their non-awry counterparts – sadness, excitement, spontaneity, reading into things in a fearful way, trepidation, etc. all have counterparts — “clinically” depressed mood without another explanation (don’t get me started on the addition of complicated grief, I think it’s absurd); intense arousal, again in the absence of another explanation; impulsivity that overrides reflectively endorsed commitments to particular ways of behaving; paranoia in the absence of another explanation (e.g., cultural fear of government); paralyzing anxiety. The non-awry counterparts can be pleasant or unpleasant, effective or ineffective, etc., but they are “normal” emotional and cognitive functioning in the same way that perceiving sound originating from sound waves is normal auditory processing. Everyone sometimes experiences processing-gone-awry: we all feel sad in a way that is exhausting and that we can’t explain as part of a response to something; we all get keyed up in the absence of a reason to be; we all make impulsive decisions we later regret; we all interpret e.g., someone laughing as being directed at us when there’s no reason to think so other than the feeling that they are; we all freeze because we feel anxious. Similarly, we all mistakenly “hear” from time to time – we say, “what?…oh, I thought you said something.” It is when what I’m calling “awry” processing is systematic and persistent that the phenomena become clustered in a way that sets the experience apart from ordinary “awry” processing. This stuff – the systematic clustering of gone-awry phenomena – is what we call “mental illness.”

            Where it gets tricky is that phenomena can cluster for different reasons, and the way to deal with any given clustering is going to vary depending on the circumstance. The medical model runs into trouble with this — it is one thing to understand what we mean when we talk about these clusters, it is another to try to define them systematically. This is messy stuff – it’s not clear cut, so trying to make it clear cut is no straightforward matter. The approach that’s been taken thus far has involved categories rather than dimensions (there are reasons for this, but it is not without problems) and “decision by committee.” On the one hand, we’ve ended up with clear delineation where in reality the lines are fuzzy and shifting. On the other hand, if we tried to stay true to the phenomena, there’d be no delineating at all (due to so many possible alternative explanations for any individual case), and it’d be impossible to make sense of what a particular cluster has in common across different individual cases. The firm delineations work fine, as long as the people using them understand that they don’t map onto reality in an exact way. This is where clinical judgment comes in, and psychiatry/psychology becomes more art than science. Unfortunately, many clinicians can’t or don’t exercise careful, insightful judgment. Moreover, though, we don’t need the delineations to treat the clusters (except the insurance companies insist we do) as much as we need them in order to scientifically study them – the reliance on clinical judgment means that each individual case is analyzed on its own, so grouping clusters into categories isn’t necessary (it might help to have a rough sense of how they tend to group together, but, again, formal, rigid categories aren’t needed for that). However, we can’t apply scientific methodology to understanding the clusters *unless* we define them. There are two choices: (1) don’t study the clusters scientifically, or (2) define them as best we can and revise the definitions as research sheds light on what we’ve gotten wrong. I advocate for (2). Have these “clusters” I’ve been referring to, which we call “mental illness,” been defined as best they can be given our present understanding of them? No, probably not. Are there complicated issues with going the route of (2)? Yes, for one thing, how we define the phenomena under study is going to dictate how we approach the study of it, which means that our definitions can lead us badly astray. Do many researchers understand this? Yes, that, I believe, is the impetus for NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria, which asks researchers to study mental illness with a bottom-up approach – set aside the top-down (i.e., current definitions of mental disorders) and investigate the phenomena along these dimensions, remaining agnostic with respect to how they’ll inform nosology.

            I’m not sure why we would better off abandoning the project. The mind/brain is incredibly complex, yes, but that just means it will not be easy to arrive at an understanding of it – not that we can’t possibly hope to. We’ve made a lot of progress in understanding the mind/brain (in general) at the biological level over the last 60 years; I believe we will continue to make rapid progress and that what we discover will improve the treatment of mental illness, which for many is something they would like treatment for. For now, we should do the best we can with what we know – part of “doing the best” means recognizing the limitations of that knowledge. This is where some researchers and clinicians fail, but it is the fault of individuals (and various forces, like insurance companies, that influence them) when that happens, not the fault of the enterprise itself. Furthermore, the failure of some individuals does not entail the failure of all. In all fields, careful science happens some of the time, but not all the time – that doesn’t mean we should abandon science completely, but rather that we should do what we can to ensure as much careful science is being conducted as possible. Hence, my call to improve psychiatry as a research-based, scientific endeavor, not destroy it.

            Apologies to all for so many lengthy replies – it’s hard to talk about this stuff without going into a fair amount of detail, and since I’ve received a lot of tough questions, I’ve felt the need to respond with enough depth to accurately communicate my answers. It’s also not possible for me to take the time to craft what I’m writing, so apologies for any lack of clarity.

        • Where do you keep getting your information from, the drug companies? Where is your so-called scientific proof that there is such a thing as “mental illness?” There is no proof.

          Fine with me if you want to believe this delusion but don’t expect the rest of us to accept any of this flim flammery. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Remember that line from the movie The Wizard of Oz? According to you, the emperor does have a wonderful new suit of clothes!

          • I don’t mean to argue with you, Layla, because your description of the current reality is actually quite accurate. But you actually reinforced exactly what I said: there is no objective way to define ANY “mental illness”.

            I don’t think we should abandon the study of the mind, but I do think we should abandon the idea that a psychiatrist can look at my behavior or emotional experiences and “diagnose” a “disorder” that requires “medical treatment” due to a “chemical imbalance in the brain.” Surely, you see the difference between saying, “We’re studying people who experience the phenomenon depression to see if we can figure out what is going on” and “We can tell that you have a disorder of the brain and you need to take this drug to treat it.” I have no problem with the first approach. The second is extremely dangerous, especially when you look at the outcomes.

            So my opposition to psychiatry has nothing to do with being opposed to research. It has to do with being opposed to lying to people in order to make a whole lot of money. Again, I refer you to Loren Mosher. This is not a neutral scientific enterprise. The DSM-III was an intentional business decision by the psychiatric establishment in order to reclaim their share of the market. The whole idea of “chemical imbalances” was promoted intentionally, because psychiatrists can prescribe and that was their market advantage. And of course, the pharmaceutical companies were happy to fund the effort.

            Again, not saying that psych drugs can’t play a part in recovery. I’m saying that the psychiatric profession is unethical at its very core, is not interested in science, and their DSM is a tool to capture market share, not a genuine effort to understand the mind or the brain. To me, supporting scientific research DEMANDS that we oppose psychiatry, because psychiatry does not want the actual scientific data getting out. Look at how Whitaker’s book has been received, or Irving Kirsh’s work, or David Healy, or even Marcia Angell, who used to be the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Even mainstream psychiatrists who stop spouting the party line are cut off at the knees.

            There is no respect for truth at the higher levels of the psychiatric profession. “Cult” may be too kind of a term to even describe them. They are engaged in an evil enterprise, and they are doing tremendous damage in the name of helping. Don’t allow yourself to confuse them with scientists. They are capitalists plying their trade, with no concern for the consequences beyond their own bottom line.

            — Steve

          • \\…To me, supporting scientific research DEMANDS that we oppose psychiatry, because psychiatry does not want the actual scientific data getting out. Look at how Whitaker’s book has been received, or Irving Kirsh’s work, or David Healy, or even Marcia Angell, who used to be the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine…//

            Steve,

            I view your entire comment (on March 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm) as *quite wise* – until you paint David Healy as a doctor of psychiatry who genuinely values science.

            At that point, you lose me.

            Particularly, as you go on, to explain, “my opposition to psychiatry has nothing to do with being opposed to research. It has to do with being opposed to lying to people in order to make a whole lot of money,” I can only respond (emphatically):

            You should focus your critical scrutiny – not your praise – upon Healy.

            He is deeply invested in saving the psychiatric enterprise – but ‘reshaped’ in his own image.

            He does this by *seemingly* denouncing all evils of the Psychiatry/Big-Pharma nexus.

            Meanwhile, he *denies* the evils of his most favored psychiatric ‘medical treatment’ (ECT).

            You write:

            \\…Surely, you see the difference between saying, “We’re studying people who experience the phenomenon depression to see if we can figure out what is going on” and “We can tell that you have a disorder of the brain and you need to take this drug to treat it.” I have no problem with the first approach. The second is extremely dangerous, especially when you look at the outcomes…//

            Yes! Exactly! …That is why you should *scrutinize* Healy’s promotion of ECT.

            Indeed, you conclude (quite poignantly):

            \\…There is no respect for truth at the higher levels of the psychiatric profession. “Cult” may be too kind of a term to even describe them. They are engaged in an evil enterprise, and they are doing tremendous damage in the name of helping. Don’t allow yourself to confuse them with scientists. They are capitalists plying their trade, with no concern for the consequences beyond their own bottom line…//

            In my view, those lines, of yours, apply to Healy no less than to anyone else, “at the higher levels of the psychiatric profession.”

            [And, by the way: Healy is *not* the outcast, that you make him out to be; he was recently *honored* – as *guest* speaker, at the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) second largest annual meeting. (Quite ironically, he spoke to a session, that was focused, on the topic, of conflicts-of-interest.)]

            QUESTION: Are you simply not aware that Healy is shilling for the ECT Industry?

            Please, see my comment to SethF1968 (Seth), on February 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm:

            https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/02/reflections-on-a-psychiatric-indoctrination-or-how-i-began-to-free-myself-from-the-cult-of-psychiatry/#comment-20502

            And, to SethF1968 (Seth), on February 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm:

            https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/02/reflections-on-a-psychiatric-indoctrination-or-how-i-began-to-free-myself-from-the-cult-of-psychiatry/comment-page-2/#comment-20580

            Respectfully,

            ~Jonah

          • Hi, Jonah!

            I don’t mean to paint Healy as a paragon of scientific virtue. I selected him as an example precisely because he’s right in the middle of the psychiatric heirarchy, and yet still has been castigated because he doesn’t support the party line on antidepressants. (And he truly was, he lost a job in Canada because he published something negative about antidepressants.) He’s clearly not an “antipsychiatry” figure, he’s actually quite mainstream, and yet still can’t speak to his own profession about the actual data in the field.

            I am no apologist for Healy’s views on ECT. It takes a pretty warped view of a human being to think that passing electricity through his/her brain will be anything but profoundly damaging. He’s no hero – it is more an example of how the profession is willing to shun its own members if they don’t toe the party line.

            — Steve

  13. PS I’m not on psych meds at the moment, but the love of my life is, and she wants to be because she believes they help her. If some of the people who have written here had their way, she couldn’t be because they’d be “done away with.” Think for a moment what you are advocating. Not all patients of psychiatrists are helpless objects being acted upon who can’t think for themselves and need to be “rescued.”

  14. Decided decades ago that I did not suffer from “a lack of self esteem” and whatever snap decision DSM diagnosis which the case manager found handy to use in the moment. Perhaps more accurate, I had underdeveloped sense of self entitlement. Democracy of souls brought together by Internet technology reminds me that I am not alone, in particular Michael E. Nagler who teaches Peace Studies from Berkeley online. “Sassing” is an ignorant word used by ignorant people who expect complete compliance in return for being unaccountable for their actions. Heard a lot of the word in the mh system. My diagnoses never helped me get beyond the problems I have with florescent lights and inability to stay well in hot, humid weather or in the high pollen seasons or in rooms which smell like floor polishes. Can never write an essay about making it through to the other side of diagnoses AND finding hope because what I have never been able to overcome leaves me feeling too impaired and too vulnerable and often isolated for months at a time. I keep a low profile, observe (something I have learned I can do astutely well), take notes, occasionally write stories. The kind of creative maladjustment I do and money for what a cup of coffee costs will get me a cup of coffee. Contact with the mh system is reinforcement in fear and hopelessness and reminder that much of what is considered true and benevolent is measured in dollars and cents.

  15. Layla

    I am a therapist (LMHC and addiction specialist) who has worked in community mental health for 20 years (I also blog on MIA), and I have witnessed the complete complete take over of Biological Psychiatry’s Disease/Psych Med Model. This model does enormous damage to people and undermines the dedicated and difficult work of many hard working professionals in the field.

    I have great admiration and support for Laura Delano’s contributions to MIA. Since Biological Psychiatry maintains a complete dictatorship over the mental health field I have no problem with her unflinching condemnations of psychiatry and her labeling psychiatry as a cult. I prefer to label myself as anti-Biological Psychiatry as opposed to anti-psychiatry. If all psychiatric prescriptions were halted today there would be at least 20 years of work necessary to help develop and research safe withdrawal programs from all the toxic medications as well as the need to develop other positive support programs to help people who are experiencing extreme states of psychological distress. Progressive doctors could play an important role in this period of reformation.

    We cannot say at this time what the field of psychiatry will look like in a post revolutionary world. But there is no question that modern psychiatry and the entire mental health field needs to be completely dismantled and replaced with something more just and humane. We cannot underestimate how much the oppressive theory and practice and elitism of Biological Psychiatry has infiltrated the minds of every one working in the mental health field; we truly need a real “brain washing.”

    Layla, I admire your willingness to participate in this very spirited dialogue. You have raise good questions and promoted a healthy debate. Many of the writers here at MIA have done a great job in critically challenging your attempts to hold onto the faulty science of Biological Psychiatry’s “genetic theories of original sin.” It sounds to me like your greatest support in the mental health field has come from those professionals who have not been totally indoctrinated by Biological Psychiatry and have allowed you to find your own path to transformation. Your belief and practice of mindfulness mediation sounds like a tremendous resource for you; something I wish some of the people I work with would take up with your level of commitment. I look forward to watching you struggle and grow in this community.

    Richard

  16. Jonah
    I have not read Healy’s defense of ECT. It is baffling. But even Linda Andre the preeminent critic of ECT appreciated some of Healy’s other books.
    I will read the review of Healy’s book–if only for the light it may shed on his motivation. I don’t need to be convinced ECT is barbaric. I decided that a long time ago.I have not deferred to him in any way.
    Healy’s too astute a critic to not read his important books due to the fact that he wrote one book that was testimony to the irrationality of which human beings are capable–and specifically of which Healy is capable. I happen to like Heidegger’s later work and as every knows he was a Nazi.
    Healy highly praised Whitaker’s books and Bob highly praised Healy most recent book, Pharmageddon. It is one of the most eviscerating and and scholarly deconstructions of the medical-industrial complex–with focus–on psychiatry, that has been written. An it is in fact his argument that that quality of the “medicines” used is no better than that of snake oil…He easily demolihes the kind of arguments that Layla is making here–and due to his mainstream credentials he might convince people like her.
    Seth

    There were other books by him that I thought were pretentious academic tomes and I stopped reading. But Pharmageddon is an essential book. And Let them Eat Prozac is worth quoting.

    • Seth,

      I nod in complete agreement, with nearly everything I read of yours, on this site. (And, though I’ve not yet picked up a copy of your book, I shall, soon enough; and, with all but the perfect certainty, already I know I’ll greatly enjoy reading it – based on what I know of you, from your writing here, on this site.)

      So, you explain to me, “I don’t need to be convinced ECT is barbaric. I decided that a long time ago,” and I can honestly say the same – except, I admit (and, you may, too), that: of course, some people who undergo ECT consider it a *boon*.

      Some do seem to benefit from ECT (apparently); but, to *countless* others, it is clearly crippling, in various ways. And, frankly, my heart aches from encountering those (many) firsthand accounts, of effects, of ECT, which prove it to be somewhat like Russian Roulette (a more or less, deadly gamble).

      Of course, KOL’s (“key opinion leaders”) in the ECT Industry routinely *deny* the existence of any significant, negative outcomes, from ECT – just *exactly* as the foremost leaders in the pharmaceutical industry routinely deny the worst negative effects of neuroleptics. In fact, David Healy becomes the quintessential ‘pot-calling-the-kettle-black’ as he rails against what you refer to, so aptly, as, “the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex” (PPIC); for, he is famous (amongst many survivors of ECT) for denying the worst effects of shock therapy (a.k.a., ‘electroconvulsive therapy’ / ECT).

      Now, in the interest of (A) keeping my reply, to you, on topic – and (B) refraining from making this a personal attack, against David Healy, I refer back to Laura’s post, wherein she asks: “Just what does it mean to say that I was indoctrinated into Psychiatry?”

      Laura goes on to list a litany of ways in which she was indoctrinated… Based on my own experiences, I can verify: they are all fine examples of the *harmful* ways that one tends to perceive oneself, upon having been indoctrinated into Psychiatry. In so many ways, one may ‘surrender’ to Psychiatry, by agreeing (more or less unconsciously) to be its witless subject; and, because of the vast hubris of some psychiatrists, there is – not infrequently – a most *complete* form of surrender created – i.e., the kind that can only be assured by ‘heavy meds’ and/or by ECT. In fact, ECT creates a virtually unsurpassable, instantaneous surrender. (In the not too distant past, there was also much psychosurgery, in psychiatry, to affect such ends.)

      But, you say, “I have not read Healy’s defense of ECT. It is baffling.” And, you add, “There were other books by him that I thought were pretentious academic tomes and I stopped reading. But Pharmageddon is an essential book. And Let them Eat Prozac is worth quoting.”

      I pray you will be un-baffled by these simple facts: David Healy is an ECT Industry KOL – running a clinic in Wales. That’s how he makes his living. You are already aware that he can be pretentious, in his writings (you have said so); thus, you can probably well imagine his characteristic *insensitivity* to those who insist they’ve been harmed by ECT. Here I recommend you to a blog post of mine, on this subject:

      http://beyondlabeling.posterous.com/dr-david-healy-in-tweet-conversation-re-effec

      You will see, if you study that post, of mine: Healy tends to blame neuroleptic drugs and excuse ECT – as a hard and fast rule. (It is a “principle” he follows – despite any and all objections from those who know they’ve been harmed by ECT.)

      And, finally, here are two paragraphs from a Huffington Post article, by Dr. Peter Breggin, titled, “The Stealth ECT Psychiatrist in Psychiatric Reform”:

      “David Healy is a psychiatrist working in Wales who first became well-known in 1997 — three years after my wife and I published the bestseller, Talking Back to Prozac — as a newbie critic of antidepressants. It was refreshing at that time to have a dyed-in-wool biological psychiatrist take on Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil, and he made a contribution to research and to informing the public and the professions of the dangers. But he presented himself as something new and unique without drawing on the work already published and his books were critical of those of us in the reform movement.

      “Even after Healy was critical of me in his books, we invited him to speak in 2004 at the annual conference of the reform organization I founded, and I specifically asked one attendee not to embarrass him in public when he was speaking. I wanted a ‘big tent’ for psychiatric reform. Healy took the opportunity to interview me for a ‘historical’ book he was writing about ECT and I explained some of the critical scientific literature that he would later leave out or dismiss in his ECT book. At the time, I had no idea that Healy’s real underlying commitment was to shock treatment — so much so that it explained why the biological psychiatrist was criticizing antidepressants. David Healy wanted to justify the need for shock treatment.”

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-peter-breggin/electroshock-treatment_b_1273359.html

      Look forward to reading your book…

      Thanks for your reply…

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

      • P.S. — a technical correction to what I have said, above:

        I wrote: “Healy tends to blame neuroleptic drugs and excuse ECT – as a hard and fast rule.”

        That wording is not exactly accurate; “psychotropic ‘medications'” should replace the term, “neuroleptic drugs,” in that line.

        I.e., here is what I meant to say: “Healy tends to blame psychotropic ‘medications’ and excuse ECT – as a hard and fast rule.”

        And, note: I am referring there, to ECT ‘patient’ complaints, of (A) *enduring* memory loss and (B) *plaguing* cognitive deficits – as well as to (C) documented cases of post-ECT brain damage. Healy dismisses the notion that any of these are the effects of ECT; he insists they are all the effects of psychopharmacology.

  17. Condoning and excusing a method which does exactly the opposite of what it maintains: creates chemical imbalance rather than heals it; this is a sign of fear against the brain itself. And emotions. Fear and a belief in magic causes one to overlook the facts that this not so old science has for more than half a century promised to find what it hasn’t found, continues to promote as much propaganda as it can that it’s treating biological diseases not found to exist while actually causing biological disease; and in the meantime, while there’s more and more mental illness, has suppressed the methods which do correlate with more healing, and has been able to force it’s “treatments” on people, and when this doesn’t correlate with healing demands more treatment, and then also covers up the evidence that it’s treatments are often the direct cause for death, violence and disability, the conditions it says it’s healing. It’s also quite bizarre to call a method biological based when it purports to address a chemical imbalance it hasn’t found, while scientifically causing one. One would then call the other methods which aren’t “biologically” based biological then, because they DON’T damage biology.. And making up flowery ideology that sight came from thought thinking about chemical reactions and so our thoughts are chemical and so these drugs do, or will, or should work; this ALSO goes nowhere except glossing over what’s really going on. There’s also a difference between controlled substances PROVEN to cause brain damage and a chemical reaction that maintains health. A healthy meal, or simply giving a person the right to refuse controlled substances that correlate with brain damage would all be a healthy “chemical” reaction. That’s also sane thought rather than magic ideology.

  18. Nijinsky,

    “Chemical imbalance” is certainly a massive oversimplification. For one thing, it is not about presence or absence of neurotransmitters, as “chemical imbalance” might suggest, but rather the activity of receptors. For another, neural communication is electrical as much as it is chemical.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “sight came from thought thinking about chemical reactions” – I don’t know how to interpret that sentence, but it sounds like you are saying that I suggested sight comes from thinking about chemical reactions…that’s certainly not what I meant, unless you’re defining “thought” and “thinking” in a very non-standard way. I wrote that sight arises from processing in the visual cortex, by way of making the point that emotion arises in much the same way.

    I would like to point out that I am not claiming to have all the answers, and I am only offering a perspective different from the one that tends to get shared on this blog. I think psych meds are overprescribed and that the approach to prescribing often unthinking; I don’t doubt that this causes harm in some cases. At the same time, I don’t think psych meds are *always* damaging *every* time they are prescribed to *any* individual. That’s a very strong claim, and unless I’m mistaken, it’s not the one advanced by Robert Whitaker. All I’m saying is that it’s not the case that there’s *never any* basis for prescribing psych meds and they *always* do more harm than good. Yes, far greater care must be taken in when/why/how/to whom they are prescribed, but the entire science is not “just a sham.” We do know quite a bit about the brain and what is currently referred to as “mental illness” – not as much as some researchers and clinicians make it seem, but it’s just not the case that we don’t have any solid evidence regarding the underlying biology. To say we don’t is to take an extreme position; I’m not trying to take the extreme at the opposite end. In saying emotion is biological, I’m really not saying anything very radical. Of course it’s biological, we’re biological organisms – everything we are/do is biological.

    Best wishes,

    Layla

  19. Richard,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I don’t have time to give your remarks the careful attention they merit, so I’ll just briefly touch on a couple points that seem relevant to the gist of what you’ve said.

    First, yes, you are absolutely correct that the mental health professionals who have been helpful for me have also been those who do not adhere rigidly to any one treatment approach or perspective. I would hold them up as models of competent treaters. Note, however, that the biological psych perspective did have a role in how my psychiatrist treated me — he prescribed meds, which I did not find to have a damaging effect and which seemed help. Just my perspective of course, but one that undoubtedly informs my views. I realize that for those who have *only* felt harmed by meds (I did have that experience as well, when I was on an outrageous cocktail of many all at once), a different viewpoint feels equally compelling.

    Second, I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that I hold, in any way, a view of “genetic original sin.” I can’t imagine anyone who understands human development would hold what that implies.

    Third, I’d like to note that I understand bio-psycho-social to refer not to levels of causality but to levels of explanation. It is all biological – a point I will let stand alone here, as I have gone into quite a bit of detail on that view in other posts – but sometimes biological explanations are not the most useful level of analysis to employ. We can use the level of psychological and we can use the level of social – we’re talking about biology, but in a way that makes communication more effective. What would “non-biological” psychiatry look like, exactly (in the present day)? Is it biological psychiatry that’s a problem, or is it certain tendencies among the bio-psychiatry crowd that’s a problem? Should we abandon trying to understand the biology of the brain?

    Finally, my point about statements like “psychiatry is a cult” and all that: this kind of position is polarizing. Making something black-and-white/good-or-bad, with no room in the middle, you end up with two diametrically opposed camps “pro” and “anti”; “us and them.” But it’s not just psychiatrists who are getting stuck in the “them” camp, it’s anyone whose views fall somewhere in the middle. By grouping “middle-of-the-road” with “other-end-of-the-spectrum,” you end up forcing middle-of-the-roaders to be against you. I think that’s happened some with my posts – I am being painted into the “pro-psychiatry” corner. I’m not saying all posters have done this, but I do think it has happened in some cases. Regardless, when you view someone as “them” and go on the offensive in response to what they say, it often pushes them to defend the opposite extreme, even though that’s not where they really stand. This likely moves the person away from your camp and toward that of the declared “them.” We can see it in the political arena — if we turn it into “pro-government” and “anti-government” the discussion becomes a shouting match. Someone who stands in the middle (government is bad in some ways, good in others) gets stuck “picking sides” – a middle-of-the-road view in a conversation dominated by those who are anti ends up in the position of defending government. They may share many of the same views as the “anti” crowd, but there’s no way to talk about the common ground because their viewpoint will be rejected unless they defect from the “middle” and join the “anti” whole hog. The political analogy can be fruitfully extended, I think. There’s no denying our government has all sorts of problems/dysfunctions, but the solution isn’t to do away with government, it’s to try to make it better. Anyway, what difference does it make if it’s polarizing? Well, some people who visit this blog could really benefit from thinking more critically about what their psychiatrist tells them and prescribes them. But, they are turned off by the polarizing, extreme position, so they tune out before any part of the message can reach them. I’m talking about actual, real-life patients who aren’t going to accept the “evil empire” framing of psychiatrists and so aren’t going to learn anything from hearing about Laura’s experience. This is what I meant when I talked about only reaching those who are already in full agreement. People who already view the matter in these terms undoubtedly feel validated and vindicated by the conversations they’re having with one another. People who don’t subscribe to this “evil empire” view – and there are patients of psychiatrists reading this blog who don’t – get irritated by what they see as over-the-top and tune out. These are missed opportunities to get people who are being treated by psychiatrists – and who aren’t going to just stop seeing them altogether – to question their treatment, to think critically about it, to learn from Laura’s experience even though what they learn isn’t going to make them take up her cause.

    I have to stop here, but hopefully I’ve managed to get across where I’m coming from.

    Best wishes,

    Layla

    • I have to say, it is mostly the psychiatrists themselves who have carved out the “us vs. them” terrain. Read up on what happened to Loren Mosher when he challenged the establishment to recognize that his Soteria House non-medical approach was as or more effective than drugs with none of the side effects. Believe me, he quickly became an enemy and was summarily removed from any position of power. You are deluding yourself if you think psychiatry as a profession is interested in a middle ground. That’s why I agree with Laura that “cult” describes the overall experience quite well. Not that every member is blind, but the leadership expects blind adherence to a dogmatic and inflexible doctrine and shuns anyone who challenges it. There is no “middle ground” with such an institution. It’s either fight or be oppressed. They have the power and won’t give it up, and no rational discussion or scientific discourse is going to change that. Otherwise, we’d have Soteria Houses and Open Dialog centers in every major city in the country. But we don’t, do we?

      —- Steve

      • Amen, and thank you, from here, too, Steve.

        And to Layla: it seems to me that you’ve misunderstood something. You keep telling us that we should work to improve biological psychiatry, not criticize it as such, and work to have it replaced with something completely different. But in order to wish for an improvement of biological psychiatry, instead of a wish for something completely different to replace it, we would all have to subscribe to your belief that our biology is the be-all and end-all in our lives, that everything else is secondary to it (if at all it exists), and that whatever got us psychiatrically labeled was a result of “brain processing gone awry”, i.e. meaningless madness. I for one certainly never will subscribe to that belief, as it runs entirely counter to my own experience, and as I far too many times have seen the absolutely devastating effect it has on people’s lives. And I suspect that I’m not alone in this here. In the introduction of your first comment here you give the impression that you respect Laura’s experience. If that’s really what you want to do, respect Laura’s, and so many others’, experience, you stop asking us to deny it, and buy into the “it’s all just biology” belief of yours.

  20. Steve,

    Wow (or, maybe, “whoa”). Thank you for the advice to read up on Loren Mosher – I’ve only had a chance to look at his resignation letter, but already, very interesting and certainly eye-opening. It’s not a revelation that the relationship of drug companies and psychiatry is problematic, but it seems I’ve perhaps underestimated the depth of the problems – frightening, as I’ve estimated them to be quite bad. Of course, being the cautious soul that I am 🙂 I will explore Mosher’s position more carefully before reaching any settled conclusions, but I must say, I’m very intrigued to learn more about him and the relevant history.

    I appreciate the tip on his work/dissent because while I respect the work of people like Robert Whitaker, I tend to be skeptical of narratives like his – one need only look at the work of Jared Diamond or Jonah Lehrer to see how easy it is to tell a convincing story while getting the details wrong or finding ways to put them together to fit the story one is trying to tell. (Not that I think my own reasoning isn’t susceptible to such trickery and that I’m never led astray by my own “narratives” but there’s only so much one – or, I should say only so much I – can do about that (try to keep an open mind and check in critically with one’s – er, my – beliefs)). Anyway, I’m always on the lookout for insider info that seems less narrative-y and that I can incorporate into my understanding. Mosher seems like a rich resource indeed. Sigh, why must all my hopes and dreams of idealism be dashed? (I say that because of my recent concern about psychology research prompted by Daniel Kahneman’s open letter to social psychologists. Even putting fraud cases (Stapel, Hauser, and Smeesters) to the side, it seems the research in social (and no doubt other areas of) psychology are rife with serious problems. Simmons, Nelson, and Simonsohn “proved” that listening to “When I’m 64” reduced participants’ ages by an average of 3 years (they did that as a way to illuminate the problems, of course – although Daryl Bem was totally serious when he published findings that later study of word lists predicted improved performance on earlier memory tests…) I could go on (bonobo research gets me going too – the researchers doing careful fieldwork toil in obscurity, while Franz de Waal writes books with sweeping claims and is considered the “foremost expert” despite never having seen a bonobo in the wild). On and on it goes, but I’ll try to stop rambling. Makes me want to go into perception research – those guys are more hardcore, you can’t get away with shoddy work as easily, though I’m sure plenty slips in nonetheless…I was just thinking the other day, though, that I have a lot of criticisms for clinical psychology (for one, “beware the pendulum swing!” I’m afraid we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater in the rejection of psychoanalysis), so I suppose I’ll stick with it in hopes I might shake things up a bit one day, and maybe bring about some positive changes…but, I must bide my time as my views are unlikely to be well-received what with the fact that I can be dismissed as just a young upstart. Ok, reining in the ramble for real now.

    In closing, I don’t foresee changing my mind on the whole “I am my brain” thing anytime soon (though, really, what do I know about what I’ll change my mind about or not?), but I am both interested and filled with dread to educate myself on Mosher’s views.

    Thanks to all for the interesting and engaging dialogue.

    Best wishes,

    Layla

    • Glad you are interested in Mosher – it’s a thread that leads to quite a big ball of yarn. Unfortunately for all of our ideals, politics reigns supreme, even in the medical fields, and perhaps especially in psychiatry. I appreciate your willingness to explore the potential ugliness, and encourage you to continue your journey.

      — Steve

  21. Jonah,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my previous reply to you. I’d like to clear up a few things, as best I can. First, to my way of thinking brain processing gone “awry” is largely determined by the individual – I am hesitant to wade into the waters of forced treatment, as it is such an impossibly complicated question. I would easily say “no forced treatment” except that I view myself as one who has benefitted – in a profound way – from having been involuntarily committed once before. Tricky stuff. My therapist told me back then that everyone he’d ever worked with (he follows up with all his patients when they move on) who was extremely suicidal at one point has later told him that they were glad they lived. I remember thinking “ok, maybe that’s true for everyone else, but not me. I’m the exception.” Was he wrong to commit me? I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m alive. Like I said, tricky territory and I’m not going to try to work through the enormously fraught intricacies here. Mostly, though, with brain processing gone awry, I’m saying it’s when it ceases to be adaptive, from the perspective of the individual and in terms of interfering with his or her ability to function as they have reason to believe they otherwise could. The other people qualified to judge whether someone is suffering from processing gone “awry” would be close friends, family members, etc. The problem there, of course, is that family members and friends can (1) have malevolent intentions or (2) be well-intentioned but not truly acting in the individual’s best interest. Assuming I continue on to become a psychologist and don’t stay in the lab my whole career, I would hope that the future me will be as cautious about imposing “normal” or “socially acceptable” on anyone in my care as the present-day me would expect from that future self. The famous quote “it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society” is far from lost on me. I have also been a bucker of systems much of my life, though I suppose I’ve fallen into line in many areas of life these days (not entirely, though, as I mentioned in my response to Steve a little while ago, I’m biding my time on voicing dissent in the field of clinical psychology – I’m too young and unproven to have any credibility — rightly so — at this point). I’m also gay, and well aware of the history around homosexuality and the DSM. I’ve also got a big heart, so I hope that will help me keep my sights on being a promoter of flourishing, not a promoter of conformity. (Flourishing, to me, doesn’t mean “being a productive member of society” it is far more complex and individuality-honoring than that). Finally, I am quite taken with Buddhist psychology and would hope that stays with me and that my main goal will be helping people gain insight into their true nature, their true aspirations, and find ways to work toward fulfilling that nature and reaching those aspirations. As long as I stick with the practice of loving-kindness meditation, I should be okay 🙂 hopefully!

    I don’t think I’m wrong about brain processing and its ability to go awry, though. (Note I don’t say I *know* I’m not wrong – as with nearly all things, I keep an open mind). Who defines awry is one thing, whether it happens is another. I’m a big fan of Dr. Sacks, having devoured his books with fascination and awe, and I’m familiar with the article you linked in your post. I don’t think, though, that the commonality of hallucinations means they are not processing gone “awry” – the “goal” (if I may speak teleologically) of the visual system is to construct representations of the world, visual illusions constitute going awry, so do hallucinations (same for other senses). Is synesthesia “awry”? Well, yes, but beautifully so! This is again where I’d say it has to come down to the individual – I don’t believe in free will but I do believe in the freedom to choose.

    For me, PTSD, depression, social anxiety, and drug addiction were all cases of my brain going awry on me, and I needed help to get it back in line with what promotes my flourishing. I find brain rewiring is a great way to think about how we can change ourselves – and be changed. It has been hugely helpful for me in working through the labels – or as I might call them, brain betrayals – I listed above. Down the road, if I practice psychology and am working with someone who doesn’t like the brain rewiring way of thinking about it, I’d never (assuming, again, future me lives up to current me standards) insist that they look at it that way. We’d just work together on rewiring without calling it that 🙂 I’m also a big fan of Jon Kabat-Zinn and I don’t know that anything rewires us more than mindfulness meditation does (perhaps some things change us as much, but sustained, committed mindfulness practice is…amazingly rewiring!).

    I am very averse to arguments about how “special” human consciousness is. I don’t think it’s any more special than the consciousness of a deer or a tiger or a mouse. To the extent that the consciousness of those creatures is special, so to is the human consciousness. No more, no less. This is one area where I don’t have much of an open mind.

    As with all my posts here, I’ve had to write basically “streams of consciousness” – I’m spending a lot of time trying to reply to everyone and make the replies coherent enough to get the basic gist across. As with the others, this one may not represent what I’d say if I had more time to think about what it is I believe and how best to articulate it.

    best wishes,

    Layla

    • I find it very funny your reference to “brain processing going awry”. Who decides what “going awry” means? It’s especially ironic coming from a gay person. That alone would have been considered “a brain gone awry” 40 years ago by the DSM (and it’s still considered “a brain gone awry” by the WHO under the ego dystonic assumption).

      Do you know that during the XX-th century there was a branch of science, now considered pseudoscience, that was all about “evolution gone awry”? It was called eugenics. It is estimated that 65000 Americans were forcibly sterilized with the advise and consent of these self-appointed gatekeepers of “evolution gone awry”. The stated objective of eugenic policy was to get rid of “mentally retarded and the mentally ill”.

      And again, it is 100% preposterous to suggest that perturbing your brain with psychotropic drugs will make your brain go from an “awry” state – whatever that means- to a “normal” state – whatever that means too. The brain, and human though in fact, is too complex to pretend that a little pill that will perturb your neurotransmitters is the answer to problems of living.

    • Layla,

      Now, about your “brain processing gone awry” theory, you are explaining to me, that you think about it, in these terms: ‘brain processing gone “awry” is largely determined by the individual.’

      Frankly, I wonder what that means.

      At first glance, I thought maybe it meant you believe “brain processing gone awry” is the sort of ‘diagnosis’ that can only be made by the person who believes it to be true, in respect to his/her *own* brain; however, I quickly discovered, you don’t meant that; for, I came upon your line, which explains,

      \\…The other people qualified to judge whether someone is suffering from processing gone “awry” would be close friends, family members, etc….//

      (Oh, …if you could only see me now! How I chuckle, smiling… having quoted that particular line, of yours!)

      I laugh quietly and shake my head each time I re-read that line!! …What a beauty!

      (Woops… Now, I am coughing… in response to my own, momentarily dark sense of humor… because I know: there is really *nothing* funny about this… Only, one laughs, at times, when one hasn’t the ability to cry.)

      It is long ago, yet I can’t help but recall, more than a quarter of a century back, my life was all but totally *devastated* by way of well-meaning family and friends coming to that conclusion, about my brain (of course, they spoke in terms of a, “chemical imbalance” in it) – thanks to confirmations they received from psychiatrists, who, of course, *never* examined my brain. (Why didn’t they? …because, generally speaking, that’s *not* what clinical psychiatrists do; most do nothing of the sort; but, they do claim the existence of brain problems…)

      Layla, you are smart enough to know better, I think; for, you’re brilliant in ways (your writing reveals this); but, you are young – and still forming your views, about the profession you are entering.

      And, quite obviously, to me, you’re all too easily persuaded to believe in this completely unsubstantiated notion – that “mental illness” (as defined by yourself and/or by psychiatry) is due to something being wrong with the brain.

      That is the standard view, of psychiatry – and has been, increasingly, for generations; thus, by this point, though you are studying to be a psychologist, yet you are essentially geared to be a psychiatrist. (Yes, in one comment of yours, you say you find a certain affinity with psychoanalysts; perfect! That makes you a most classic psychiatrist – which is not to say that the psychoanalysts were all wrong. But, the psychiatrist/psychoanalyst could do it all! Wondrous! …just like the Wizard of Oz.)

      Layla, LISTEN UP (you’ve got a great opportunity here): This painfully simplistic “brain processing gone awry” theory of yours is the perfect propaganda vehicle to replace that old, tired “chemical-imbalance-in-the-brain” theory, which is, at long last (*finally*) losing favor with many conventional thinkers, in psychiatry. You could write a good book on it (that is, *if* you are not already doing so). Surely, Big Pharma is looking for a good replacement theory. Yours could be catchy – because (as I’ve seen in one of your comments, above), it’s possible to argue, that an “awry” brain is *not* chemically imbalanced. (I.e, forget that old “chemically imbalanced” saw!)

      Oh, how I begin to amuse myself suddenly; but, I shouldn’t go on, this way; so, forgive me my brief moment of sarcasm (that one paragraph, directly above); in all earnestness: truly, I cannot thank you enough for the gift of this exchange…

      You have offered such wonderful material to consider. (I am absolutely *not* being sarcastic when I say that.) You are really smart and thoughtful; I’ve read all of your comments, to everyone; much of what you say makes sense; that you are impressed by Loren Mosher’s letter of resignation is a very good sign; but, you are, apparently, still fundamentally confused by your own self-propagandizing theory, which is – let’s face it – little more or less than a way to ‘justify’ medicalizing various unwanted psychological and/or emotional sufferings. (Yes, we can safely presume, those sufferings have biological correlates; but, quite as you indicate, in one comment, above: “Correlation is not causation.”)

      At last, I think: *maybe* by saying that, “awry” … “is largely determined by the individual,” you mean to indicate, that: one may experience psychological and/or emotional sufferings, which are largely the result of his/her own *chosen* thoughts and behaviors?

      That might seem to contradict your confessing – in one comment, above – that you don’t believe in free will. Nonetheless, in another comment, you confirm that: we can make choices. So, I figure: *maybe* you believe we have *limited* free will? If so, I agree with you… And, if so, indeed, you may well be suggesting that we all exert a great deal of influence over our own internal experiences, including our own psychological and emotional sufferings. If that’s what you mean, then wonderful; we’re in agreement. (Probably, that is what you mean – as it’s the kind of observation that commonly comes from deliberately practicing mindfulness.)

      About your saying,

      \\ …I am hesitant to wade into the waters of forced treatment, as it is such an impossibly complicated question. I would easily say “no forced treatment” except that I view myself as one who has benefitted – in a profound way – from having been involuntarily committed once before. Tricky stuff. My therapist told me back then that everyone he’d ever worked with (he follows up with all his patients when they move on) who was extremely suicidal at one point has later told him that they were glad they lived. I remember thinking “ok, maybe that’s true for everyone else, but not me. I’m the exception.” Was he wrong to commit me? I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m alive. Like I said, tricky territory and I’m not going to try to work through the enormously fraught intricacies here… //

      …First of all, please understand: I’m *very* glad that you were kept alive – even if by ‘commitment’; for, it’s perfectly clear to me, you do have *much* to offer the world (that’s plainly true). E.g., of your interest in mindfulness studies and in Buddhism: There’s much good to share, in such practices; and, they can be incorporated into almost any ‘mental health care’ modality, that you might choose to engage in, professionally.

      Next, realize: I do not begrudge you your experience, of benefitting from psychopharmacological interventions; but, I think such interventions should be your choice. I do not believe anyone should be forcibly medicalized. A life-saving ‘commitment’ could be *socially* oriented entirely; it need never become a mater of *medicalization* – I believe. (Indeed, I’d not recommend *forcing* any sort of ‘therapy’ upon anyone – but, especially, not any ‘therapy’ of the ‘medicalized’ kind. Ones own brain should be considered inviolable, in my view.)

      In conclusion…

      Layla, you are drawn to the ‘mental health’ field. Fine. But, to the extent that you seemingly approve of *forced* treatments, I will view you as siding with the oppressor; for, I am one (amongst many drawn to this site) who has *zero* desire to consult with psychiatrists and *zero* desire to use psychopharmacology, and I do not ever want ‘medical treatment’ forced upon me or on anyone else – as I recall the experiences, of having had it forced upon me, repeatedly, by psychiatrists, in the now distant past, and I know: the results were fairly disastrous (traumatic and isolating).

      Gratefully, now, I am almost 24 continuous years *free* of psychopharmacology; yet, it is still difficult to put this following thought into words (but, I do so, in the hope of coming to peace, with the trauma of past psychiatric ‘treatment’): I was made ‘psychotic’ by psychiatry.

      You explain that you know how it feels being forced to take a bunch of ‘meds’ simultaneously; unfortunately, such was the ‘medical treatment’ I received, as soon as Psychiatry made me its captive – and the effect was entirely maddening.

      The effect was not long-lasting, thankfully – but it was severe and did lead to my being tagged with psychiatric labels that can readily destroy bonds of trust, wherever they’re revealed.

      My experiences with psychiatry were, thus, quite different from yours – but, especially, in this sense, that, I had never wanted kill myself, yet ‘medical treatment’ was forced upon me, as a result of my being *falsely* accused of being a danger to myself; that happened repeatedly; and, my experience of being forced to take meds was 100% bad, each time – such that, after a couple of years, on those ‘meds,’ I was, indeed, beginning to contemplate suicide. (Surely, such totally negative experiences, with psychiatry, are not mine alone.)

      Psychiatry is a cult – a *dangerous* cult – especially, because, wherever it goes, it systematically co-opts the power of the State; but, of course, like all dangerous cults, it actually does do some good for some people, and it has many well-meaning practitioners.

      You are surely bright enough to be a great leader, in the field of mental health; if that’s what you choose for yourself, many shall look up to – and, probably, sooner than you think; I just pray you’ll come to realize and denounce the violence (and renounce the lies) of Psychiatry…

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

      • Jonah,

        I had intended my previous post (at 1:49pm) to be my last words in this conversation. However, shortly after posting that comment, I saw this reply to me. At first I planned to keep the previous post my last one, but I’ve since decided that I’d like to respond directly to you before exiting the conversation.

        First, as I’m sure you realize, I did not have you in mind when I spoke of hostility or a lack of gentleness and compassion. I have very much appreciated your thoughtful replies. I have no objection to being told I’m wrong – only to being told in a way that seems callous or mocking (yeah, you mocked a little, but you did so gently and in the context of respectfully disagreeing with me). You are not alone, of course, in approaching me this way – I have learned from several others who’ve posted in response to me, and I appreciate the opportunities to grow afforded by the dialogue with all who chose to go this route. I recognize that I don’t know everything – or even a small fraction of everything – and I understand that there is much to be learned by keeping an open mind when receiving criticism. So, to you and all others who avoided hostility and what I’ve called “slamming” I say, in sincere gratitude, thank your for your thought-provoking remarks and for engaging in friendly dialogue with me. I will continue to reflect upon the perspectives and wisdom you have offered, and I hope that I may grow as a person and as a student of psychology as a result.

        Second, I couldn’t help but notice your selective approach in quoting me about who determines what counts as “gone awry” processing. You leave out the part where I wrote – of friends and family members as qualified judges – “The problem there, of course, is that family members and friends can (1) have malevolent intentions or (2) be well-intentioned but not truly acting in the individual’s best interest.” That seems a rather significant omission – I addressed exactly what made you laugh/cry when reading my comment by pointing out exactly the problem you describe. I characterized the question of forced treatment as very complicated and fraught. Good can come of it (I didn’t kill myself, which I very well might have) and bad can come of it (your experience, along with that of so many others, proves as much). It is a moral dilemma – if we were omniscient, we could detect when it is for the good (preventing me from the not-unlikely fate of suicide) and when it is bad (harming in the name of “for your own good”) but we are not omniscient, and so no matter what we do, we run the risk of failing to produce a good outcome (sparing someone, who will later be glad, from suicide or other serious, self-inflicted harm) and/or we run the risk of producing a bad outcome (harming someone in the name of protecting them). It is a vexing dilemma – which side of caution do we err on? I agree that medication ought never be forced – I agree that one’s own brain is inviolable. Before I write the next sentence, may I ask that this be viewed as a *thought experiment* rendering the possibility that drugs could benefit an individual an assumption of the argument, NOT a statement about the reality. Here, I believe the cost of making the wrong decision (harming someone by forcing them to take drugs) too vastly outweighs the benefit of making the right decision (helping someone whose life is improved, from their own perspective, by taking the drugs). Again, I am not saying that drugs necessarily have the potential to improve someone’s life — I am remaining agnostic on that for the purposes of this point — I am saying that even when the thought experiment stipulates that drugs are, in fact, able to improve some lives, the risk of harming by drugging outweighs the potential benefit of helping by drugging. Selective reading and/or treating each sentence I’ve written as stand-alone seems to have led to a number of misinterpretations about my views.

        Third, I probably shouldn’t have gotten into the whole “everything is physical” stuff because I know it’s generally received as a radical view that doesn’t sit comfortably with most. It is really irrelevant to anything else I’ve said, and it is certainly not going to be relevant to the way I approach a career in psychology. It’s a fun idea for me to play with, it does not inform how I go about my daily life. My girlfriend became very upset and cried when it came up that I “don’t believe in free will.” She wondered what loving someone could possibly mean to me in light of that belief. As I told her, I love just like everyone else loves. Perhaps it is only (or mostly) those who have formally studied philosophy who don’t see beliefs about metaphysics as necessarily a very serious matter. Trying to wrap one’s mind around arguments put forth by people like Josh Greene makes my head spin in a way that feels funny (strange, not haha) and fun. I get that most people don’t like puzzling over Zeno’s arrow paradox or how many grains of sand constitute a pile. I like playing with these ideas, I don’t live according to them (I don’t go about my life as if motion is impossible and I know a pile of sand when I see one). So, I should probably leave out the flippant, half-jesting, and provocative free will/physicalism stuff. Lesson learned.

        Fourth, I haven’t learned a whole lot from psychiatry. My overarching views about the brain come from training in cognitive science, not clinical psychology and certainly not from psychiatry. I just started studying clinical psychology — I spent years working as a research and teaching assistant in cognitive science.

        Fifth, and finally, thank you for the generous compliments about my intelligence and ability to effect changes in the field of clinical psychology. However intelligent I may be or not, I want nothing more than to be a force for all that is good in humanity — love, compassion, kindness, gentleness, empathy, genuine concern for others, and on and on. My fervent hope is that I will not be led astray as I seek to promote the good in life. For your earnest attempts to ensure that my path be in the light, so to speak, I thank you.

        Best wishes,

        Layla

        • Layla,

          Wow, lovely response you’ve offered – quite amazing to me, in various ways. (Don’t tell anyone, but I am a bit teary-eyed right now, having just read it. No bull.)

          You are very capable of thoughtful and articulate discussions. With respect to your pointing out how I selectively quoted you, on the matter of what I might call “family interventions,” please accept my apologies; simply, it seemed to me that you were endorsing something which is absolutely contrary to my sense of propriety, based on personal experience.

          Now, you have clarified your views on forced ‘medication’ – which are quite well considered.

          Most pointedly, you write: “I agree that medication ought never be forced – I agree that one’s own brain is inviolable.” That is good enough for me.

          About your thirst for philosophical fodder (and your ability to contemplate and entertain various ways of thinking simultaneously), I am now recommending Andy Clark.

          This is a bit from my blog…

          According to Wikipedia,

          “Andy Clark is a Professor of Philosophy and Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Before this he was director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University in Bloomington. Previously, he taught at Washington University at St. Louis and the University of Sussex in England. Clark is one of the founding members of the Contact collaborative research project whose aim is to investigate the role environment plays in shaping the nature of conscious experience. Professor Clark’s papers and books deal with the philosophy of mind and he is considered a leading scientist in mind extension. He has also written extensively on connectionism, robotics, and the role and nature of mental representation.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Clark

          The following passage is from the introduction to a paper titled, “The Extended Mind” — by Andy Clark and David J. Chalmers:

          “Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? The question invites two standard replies. Some accept the demarcations of skin and skull, and say that what is outside the body is outside the mind. Others are impressed by arguments suggesting that the meaning of our words ‘just ain’t in the head’, and hold that this externalism about meaning carries over into an externalism about mind. We propose to pursue a third position. We advocate a very different sort of externalism: an active externalism, based on the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes.”

          http://consc.net/papers/extended.html

          Perhaps, Clark will interest you; perhaps, not.

          But, in any case, I pray you’ll not be dissuaded by critics – because there’s no reason to be. You are surely open-minded; and, I strongly suspect that such will become apparent to others if/when they realize this fact: indeed, you’re *not* stuck on a purely neuro-deterministic view of life.

          I strongly encourage you to choose to contribute, to further conversations, on this site (as I say that, I should point out: I, myself, tend to do so only sporadically); it’s perfectly clear, you have *much* good to contribute; your voice is valuable…

          Respectfully,

          ~Jonah

      • You are right that the experience of being involuntary committed and forcibly drugged stays with you even after many years. That is my case. And it also makes your life difficult because you have that little secret that you will not confide to anyone. You have the same stigma that a criminal has except that the criminal, assuming he/she was rightly accused, committed a crime while you did nothing to deserve the punishment.

  22. Laura,

    Thank you for your wonderful account of waking up from the hypnotic indoctrination of psychiatry. It put me in mind of a passage in Heinrich Zimmer’s “Philosophies of India” that I read many years ago after waking up from my own hypnosis.

    Zimmer tells the fable of an orphan tiger cub raised by a herd of goats. Under the care of the goats, the poor lost cub learned to subsist on grass, and imitated the bleats and meek behaviors of the goats. Finally he encountered a fierce old male tiger who, after watching the cub’s untiger-like behavior in disgust, seized him by the scruff of the neck and carried him into the jungle. He lectured the young tiger sternly on proper tiger behavior and finally forced him to eat his own bloody kill.

    “The cub resisted, but the frightening meat was forced between his teeth, and the tiger sternly supervised while he tried to chew and prepared swallow. The toughness of the morsel was unfamiliar and was causing some difficulty, and he was just about to make his little noise again, when he began to get the taste of the blood. He was amazed; he reached with eagerness for the rest. He began to feel an unfamiliar gratification as the new food went down his gullet, and the meaty substance came into his stomach. A strange, glowing strength, starting from there, went out through his whole organism, and he commenced to feel elated, intoxicated. His lips smacked; he licked his jowls. He arose and opened his mouth with a mighty yawn, just as though he were waking from a night of sleep–a night that had held him longer under its spell, for years and years. Stretching his form, he arched his back, extending and spreading his paws. The tail lashed the ground, and suddenly from his throat there burst the terrifying, triumphant roar of a tiger.

    “The grim teacher, meanwhile, had been watching closely and with increasing satisfaction. The transformation had actually taken pace. When the roar was finished he demanded gruffly: “Now do you know what you really are?” and to complete the initiation of his young disciple into the secret lore of his own true nature, added: “Come, we shall go now for a hunt together in the jungle.”

    Congratulations on attaining your tigerhood!

    I hope you’ll go back to the goat herd long enough to get the educational credentials of a psychologist or psychiatrist. There are a lot of young cubs these days trying to act like goats and they desperately need tigers like you.

    Best regards,
    Mary S Newton, PhD

  23. Laura,

    Thank you for your wonderful account of waking up from the hypnotic indoctrination of psychiatry. It put me in mind of a passage in Heinrich Zimmer’s “Philosophies of India” that I read many years ago after waking up from my own hypnosis.

    Zimmer tells the fable of an orphan tiger cub raised by a herd of goats. Under the care of the goats, the poor lost cub learned to subsist on grass, and imitated the bleats and meek behaviors of the goats. Finally he encountered a fierce old male tiger who, after watching the cub’s untiger-like behavior in disgust, seized him by the scruff of the neck and carried him into the jungle. He lectured the young tiger sternly on proper tiger behavior and finally forced him to eat his own bloody kill.

    “The cub resisted, but the frightening meat was forced between his teeth, and the tiger sternly supervised while he tried to chew and prepared swallow. The toughness of the morsel was unfamiliar and was causing some difficulty, and he was just about to make his little noise again, when he began to get the taste of the blood. He was amazed; he reached with eagerness for the rest. He began to feel an unfamiliar gratification as the new food went down his gullet, and the meaty substance came into his stomach. A strange, glowing strength, starting from there, went out through his whole organism, and he commenced to feel elated, intoxicated. His lips smacked; he licked his jowls. He arose and opened his mouth with a mighty yawn, just as though he were waking from a night of sleep–a night that had held him longer under its spell, for years and years. Stretching his form, he arched his back, extending and spreading his paws. The tail lashed the ground, and suddenly from his throat there burst the terrifying, triumphant roar of a tiger.

    “The grim teacher, meanwhile, had been watching closely and with increasing satisfaction. The transformation had actually taken pace. When the roar was finished he demanded gruffly: “Now do you know what you really are?” and to complete the initiation of his young disciple into the secret lore of his own true nature, added: “Come, we shall go now for a hunt together in the jungle.”

    Congratulations on attaining your tigerhood!

    I hope you’ll go back to the goat herd long enough to get the educational credentials of a psychologist or psychiatrist. There are a lot of young cubs these days trying to act like goats and they desperately need tigers like you.

    Best regards,
    Mary S Newton PhD

  24. Laura,
    Thanks for a very thought provoking piece. I have enjoyed reading your columns. You seem to imply in one of your comments that because you are obviously not mentally ill at this time that you were either (1) misdiagnosed (2) in denial or (3) there is no such thing as mental illness. I wonder if perhaps there is a fourth possibility: that you were ill and recovered.

    I have this struggle with reading your story and many like it on the internet. Many who call themselves survivors of the psychiatric system claim that they were falsely accused of being mentally ill because they are not ill now. I wonder if they can actually remember what they were like when they first received psychiatric treatment.

    The reason I ask this is because I struggle every day with my adult son who is in his twenties and in my opinion he has been ill for more than four years. He claims he is not ill and blames us for his hospitilization and being forced to take drugs which did not help him. He has psychotic episodes which he seems to forget. I always thought he was lying when he said he couldn’t remember the psychotic episodes but after reading “Brain on Fire” I am beginning to wonder if maybe people do forget psychotic episodes. Maybe more people have some form of encephalitis, perhaps caused by some sort of virus as yet unknown. I am not trying to discount anyone’s experience but just looking for some sort of explanation.

    • It is easy to confuse a refusal to accept “mental illness” as a concept and the idea that suffering is not real or can’t be caused by an illness. My objection is not against the idea that illnesses can cause mental system. It’s against clumping all people with a set of behaviors, thoughts or feelings together and ASSUMING they have an “illness” based on their “symptoms,” which are mostly a list of annoying or disturbing behaviors that we don’t like.

      There could be many things your son is struggling with, some psychological, some spiritual, and some physiological. There are definitely diseases (like syphillis, for instance) that cause psychotic symptoms. They can also be caused by lack of sleep, drug side effects, or exposure to traumatic events. Wouldn’t it make sense to figure out which of these things were involved before the doctors “diagnosed” you with a “disease” just based on the outward appearance? As an analogy, if you had a rash, would you want the doctor to treat the rash without looking for the cause of the rash, whether it was allergies, measles, poison ivy, or syphilis?

      If your son says the drugs aren’t helping, it’s probably because they aren’t helping. Perhaps someone needs to sit with him and help him come up with his own ideas of what he is seeking and why these events are happening, and what he thinks might be helpful? I know it’s painful to watch this happen and feel helpless to change it, but whatever’s happening, he has to be the one to figure it out. You can’t do it for him, and as you can see, the drug solution doesn’t really solve the underlying problem, even if it may temporarily arrest the “symptoms.”

      As for Laura, it sounds to me like she was going through some intense but fairly normal teenage stuff, and was re-routed to a very crazy pathway that did a lot of emotional damage. I see this happen all the time. Nobody seemed to sit down and ask her what was going on – instead, they tried to snuff our her feelings and experience and used labels and drugs to try to force her to be “normal” rather than helping her find her way. I see this happen all the time.

      To live is to experience distress. Distress is real, but it doesn’t work to label forms of distress as “diseases.” Sure, people recover from states of distress, but that’s the process of life. Helping people find ways to make their lives meaningful and productive in ways they care about is much more effective than drugging them into submission when they don’t fit into the status quo.

      Again, I feel for your challenges with your son. Don’t give up, but see if you can focus on seeing things from his point of view. You might want to look into the Open Dialog and Soteria House approaches to get a different view on what psychosis may represent and other ways to think about helping.

      Good luck!

      — Steve

  25. Parting comments:

    Many comments here make it clear that some have only reacted to – and not reflected upon, even for a moment – what I’ve said. For example, in NO WAY WHATSOEVER have I said ANY of the following (*nor does anything I HAVE said entail what follows*): Working through trauma is not important/trauma history is irrelevant to treatment; biology is the be-all end-all; emotions are to be feared; the unconscious is to be feared; everything is innate; experience doesn’t shape who we are; there are no behaviors or they are unimportant; CBT must be effective because it aims to rewire the brain; human existence isn’t an extraordinary experience, etc. etc. Raising any objections like these makes it clear that you have not understood my position. Perhaps it is my fault for not communicating it well enough, but I do notice that many responses seem to imply some bizarre assumptions (do you think I don’t have a fully human experience? I’m human! I don’t experience things as chemicals, I *understand* them to be chemicals. There is a *huge* difference. In light of that, why on earth would I think that one’s accent doesn’t have anything to do with the accent typical of one’s community?? How could I possibly think that the way I experience vision is by thinking about chemicals? How, as someone who has identified herself as having a trauma history, could I possibly think trauma is irrelevant to treatment?).

    Many of you talk about psychiatrists leading you to believe you were broken or dependent in some way or less than, and so on and so forth. I’m not sure any of you see how YOUR words can be insulting, belittling, and offensive to others who struggle with mental illness and don’t share your experience. Let’s run through how your position can sound to the former/current patients not in the anti-psychiatry club (maybe I am doing to your argument what you have done to mine…?): “Take responsibility and work through your issues” can sound an awful lot like “stop whining and pull yourself up by the bootstraps” to those of us who haven’t shared the experience of getting better without the help of mainstream psychiatry and psychology. Weakness of will arguments seem to be lurking in the background. In some cases, even moral failing arguments can be detected (e.g., “I choose to respond to life” – the rest of us don’t?). Your message seems to suggest that those of us who aren’t “all better now” aren’t taking responsibility for ourselves (after all, isn’t that the surest way to recovery?). Any message along the lines of, “you have a spiritual problem not a physical problem” isn’t any less cutting – in fact, if anything, it feels worse for some of us because a spiritual problem implies some kind of deep-seated personhood problem (for a lot of us, we’d rather be told our brain is faulty than that our spirit is faulty – and honestly, who’s making subjective value judgments now? Your problem is…dysfunctional relationships, not being in touch with your inner self, unresolved trauma because you haven’t worked through it. Nothing to do with your biological make-up (again: biological make-up DOES NOT EQUAL genetic code), so it’s…what? My weak will? My lack of personal responsibility? My failure to nurture and nourish my spirit?). If this blog were just about sharing common experiences – just a survivor’s support group – then, fine, no need to take into account the differing perspectives of other former/current patients. But that’s not all this is about, right? It’s a social movement to take down psychiatry. In seeking to *annihilate* the *entire* institution, do away with – not just temper, but get rid off – the biological perspective, and swap in your conception of mental illness, you seek to impose *your* view of mental illness on all of us. Many of you tend to come across as though you believe you are speaking for all patients. You’re not.

    I would also like to point out that many (not all) of you haven’t been very kind in the way you’ve chosen to respond to me. Might I point out that being nice is a nice way to be? And given that I’m, in your view, an indoctrinated psychiatric patient, wouldn’t it make sense to be gentle and compassionate with me when pointing out all the ways in which you’re sure I’m wrong? Sure, I’m working with a very responsible psychiatrist now, but I have stacks of medical records saying I’m mentally ill — what happens when my psychiatrist retires, or I move somewhere else? Having a couple semesters of grad school isn’t going to protect me from any abuses of power. Is it really more important, given your stated beliefs, to slam my posts than it is to reach out to someone who may be in grave danger at the hands of her next psychiatrist? If you really believe I’m indoctrinated and you really believe it could come to cause me serious harm (which, surely it could, if I’m indoctrinated, labeled mentally ill, and in the care of a psych hospital), then your response to me has been unconscionable. (Again, I am not directing this at everyone who directed comments at me). Emotions and anger run high here on MIA, I get that. Patients at the Hospital on the Hill read this blog. Some of them have been following this conversation; I know this for a fact – we’ve spoken about it. If you don’t care about reaching them, I’m not sure why you bother with the whole social movement thing – you’re free from psychiatry, aren’t you? If you do care about reaching them, you should know that the message you have sent – collectively – in responding to me is one of hostility toward anyone who doesn’t fall in line with exactly what you say (sound familiar?).

    Peace,

    Layla

    • Or maybe you are just resorting to the “you’ve misunderstood me” position to escape the burden of accepting responsibility for what you’ve said and the implications of what you said, so you displace responsibility on to your critics? Just thought I’d add that, because we all do it some time.

      You claim what some of us say is belittling, insulting etc., and for some reason feel the need to capitalize the YOUR. Well, this is equally applicable to some of your more patronising comments, the gist of which is that we shouldn’t be interloping on the territory of the educated elite. Of course, because you haven’t used exactly those words, you’ll be able to deny it, but this is what you imply in a number of your comments about certain individuals lack of education etc.

      At one point you said “behaviour is a manifestation of brain function” and one of the threads running throughout your commentary is that the brain is the problem and the real causal agent, so I disagreed with that, availing myself of the demystifying, elucidative power of analogy, in this case “accent”, which like behaviour is picked up by a kind of process of cultural osmosis or through conscious training. This analogy was merely made in response to the foregoing comment and others of a similar essence.

      My point about behaviour was that, if we perform a semantic autopsy on the word, if behaviour is merely the manifestation of brain function, then it is not behaviour, but merely a neurological reflex, like the spasms consequent to iatrogenic extrapyramidal perturbation, merely, as you said of all behaviour, a manifestation of brain function, though I will make an allowance for the possibility that the language you have used in this regard perhaps doesn’t accurately convey what you are trying to say, which is of course one of the great limitations of language.

      Coming back to my other point about behaviour, my point is is that it is not merely a manifestation of brain function, but, like accent, something we inherit from the immediate environmental and wider cultural context, something we learn, which is expressed through the medium of the brain. It seems we are in agreement about this, and the confusion arises from the different ways in which we would articulate this truth.

      I would appreciate it if you would be more specific when claiming we are being unconscionable in our responses. Just in case this accusation is aimed at me (obviously, ignore it if this isn’t the case), all I have done is express my opinion, and would protest if you were to consider my conduct on this particular forum to be any more reprehensible than yours, which for the most part, I would agree, has been exemplary, as is the case with everyone else.

      You subsume us all to the noun “anti-psychiatry”, yet there are hardly any people on here who are “anti-psychiatry”, just anti-coercion, anti-insitutional psychiatry in its most pervasive historical and contemporary usage as an institituion of gratuitous social control. Practically the rest of it I, like I believe most on here, am not opposed to. Maybe on this issue, when you talk of the “anti-psychiatry club”, it is your thinking that lacks nuance.

      Nevertheless, I am sceptical that institutional psychiatry can be reformed, that the profession can ever be exorcised of the demons of coercion and fraud. Both are two of the threads out of which the vast historical tapestry of psychiatry has been woven.

      You also say that many of us believe we are the spokespeople for all who are “mentally ill”. In the year or so I have been reading and commenting on here, I feel confident that I have never once encountered anyone whose remarks would warrant such an accusation. On this and many other issues, I think it is you who have misunderstood the commenters on this site. I think everyone is quite aware that it is likely that a very large portion of patients have internalized the desires and narratives of their psychiatrists and family members, and that even many others who are more discontent go along with the current system on sufferance, for numerous reasons.

    • “It’s a social movement to take down psychiatry”

      This reminds me of Martin Luther King speech “I HAVE A DREAM”. Yes, that would be wonderful. And if I can add to my wish list, in addition to taking down psychiatry, I would love to have a class action lawsuit that would take away every penny from any psychiatrist or company that has ever made money out of forced “treatment” and ruining lives. I even would send the most prominent of these abusers (psychiatrists and Big Pharma executives) to jail. I know it’s a dream unlikely to happen, but that’s my dream!

    • It’s only logical that when someone resorts to “medications” which correlate with interfering with organic brain functions that there is fear of the brain actually responding to life. And fear of the emotions that are expressed through the brain. And anyone pointing out that they prefer to condone methods that correlate more with healing, don’t damage the brain, don’t correlate with loss of life, and that nurture an understanding of life and how a persons responds to it rather than disabling the brain; this is in no way hostile or insulting to anyone. It’s honoring life as an experience not something that needs to be disabled.

      As has been listed many times; and also carefully and thoughtfully shared (although this is met with accusations of contempt) the methods which do not disable the mind with medications have the best results. And the proponents of these methods aren’t scared of the emotions expressed through a mind which hasn’t been disabled; in contrast they understand what’s going on internally with a person and know how to promote healing; which statistics prove they have. And they aren’t scared because they willing to understand these emotions, these symptoms of distress, and know how to deal with them rather than disabling the mind. That isn’t the case with bio-psychiatry. In fact it’s the opposite. If a behavior is not understood, it’s suppressed. And bio-psychiatry is causing chemical imbalance and brain disease with their treatment, not healing it.

      Seeing something as having a “physical” cause is fine in theory; but this has become destructive rather than healing when the treatment for this alleged physical cause involves actually causing physical damage, loss of life, more disability, more paranoia against emotions and symptoms of distress which there are answers for; a suppression of the damage these “medications” cause (see recent court cases involving such as Zyprexa), a suppression and/or withholding of the statistics (again see recent court cases, along with the rest of the material already shared in this post) and the active suppression of methods which do correlate with healing, reduction of disability and enhancement of the human condition. Were one actually showing integrity to science, it would be seen that the drugs themselves are a physical cause of disease.

      People with emotional responses to life that seem out of the ordinary to others, that seem disruptive, that go against the grain; when there’s a willingness to experience and learn to relate to these emotions, these symptoms, understanding can occur; this doesn’t occur when the mind is disabled from experiencing said symptoms through disabling drugs. Understanding also is hampered when there is so much fear promoted that all such responses are sectioned, labeled as coming from an unproven organic disease (while being “treated” with disabling medications that cause organic disease), suppressed with fear based mind control. And methods that correlate with healing which do not promote disabling medications or fear of the symptoms are suppressed.

      Bio-psychiatry has only caused more disability, more occurrences of what it itself labels as a disease (including proof that they are causing chemical imbalance rather than treating it). This certainly doesn’t warrant that they would have the amount of control they h ave over treatment, except that money is involved. And the suppression of the human condition to mind control, through promoting fear as well as disabling the brain.

      And really. I’m not even saying these substances should be illegal. But a person should have the choice to not be forced on these substances, and the whole truth should be told about them. That they haven’t been proven to treat a chemical imbalance but themselves cause chemical imbalance; that they disable the mind interfering with natural organic functions; that they are highly addictive; that ALL the side effects are listed as well as the loss of life expectancy and that the alternative treatments are offered which correlate higher with healing, which are more cost effective and which promote an understanding of the symptoms rather than a suppression. There are enough people that resort to all sorts of drugs (street drugs which I also think shouldn’t be illegal, alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, sugar, junk food what have you) and say this enhances their life. Even cocaine, which used to be a magic psychiatric substance years ago, isn’t advertised as treating any chemical imbalance to alleviate distress by the pharmaceutical industry. Regardless how many people enamored of or addicted to cocaine might promote such advertising.

      Science itself (if one is going to say that they are scientific) also in Quantum physics sees no separation between the observer and the object. That we influence what we observe. And the healing modalities that do NOT promote brain damage as a magical disabling device that eradicates unwanted thought (along with such things as dreaming, personal initiative, creativity) these modalities actually relate to thought itself. That a person can actually learn to understand, to think, to relate to how their own thoughts themselves effect their life. This frees them of the burden of believing they have to damage – which is all psychiatric drugs really do scientifically – the vehicle which allows them to think, in order to get rid of unwanted thoughts. What before this was a completely unwanted, misunderstood, scary reaction which they had no cognitive relationship with becomes a vehicle to understand how their mind works. And this brings understanding of the human condition. Even of those people who caused the trauma which caused the distress which caused the symptoms, to begin with.

    • I have been unsure how to enter this conversation, and now I feel a little silly wanting to enter as you exit, Layla. I just wanted to say I appreciate your involvement in this discussion. You are willing to bring your own quirks into your writings, and know you work hard to be engaging and kind.

      I will also speak for myself in saying I don’t feel so free from psychiatry. I think I will always somehow be trapped by psychiatry as I have a record that follows me now and a lot of missing time in my life caused by treatment.

      I’m gay too, and I now live with a lot of fear and anger about my lack of ability to adopt children (something already more difficult for gay folk and something that I had previously hoped to one day do), as I am fairly confident that how I was labelled after I began to raise concerns in my treatment makes me pretty much ineligible. This may be able to change if I can engage with more psychiatrists and somehow prove I am not what my notes say, but even doing that would be ammo for relabelling me.

      For me, and I think you get at some of it in your response to Jonah, that the ability to predict good and bad outcomes in engaging with mental health treatment is so poor, but as a patient, you have to submit yourself to that risk. I did not know what risks awaited me in treatment, and wish I had a better sense of what it could be before I engaged. I sought treatment because I wanted to stay engaged with my life, and found that treatment derailed me from it, and then stripped me of a lot of hope/interest for even trying to reengage with again. Being hurt by treatment is trapping in that it makes talking about what happened to you so difficult. For me, I’ve lost trust in mental health professionals, regret even intending to be one (I was planning on being a clinician before I engaged with treatment), and I fear further alienation from talking to others about the experience.

      For me, I no longer feel ethical seeking to become a clinician, knowing the poor outcome data, pseudo-diagnostics, and the real harm that treatment can engender. I do wish you care and luck in your path.

    • I meant to post this comment earlier in the day, but oh well.

      Layla,
      My advice to you would be to take your own advice. After reading your very copious commentary here, I have wanted to respond to you many times that if you could *stop talking (& immediately reacting & responding) for a moment* – * just a moment * – and *listen* and think about what people are saying a bit more, and investigate some of the links and leads that have been given to you, you might learn something. You might not. Often it takes a profound and very personal experience to wake us up. That evidently has not happened to you yet, and who knows if it will. Biopsychiatry has a very powerful hold on our society currently. Yes, there is a lot of anger and upset from posters here – that’s normal for people who have been mistreated by an established power structure and have few opportunities to be heard & affirmed. You are coming onto a site to defend a power structure that has abused, traumatized, and angered many here. Sorry, but what do you expect? You are going to have to realize that this is part of the playing field if you choose to come here & tell us that we are wrong. I may be mistaken but I think your tone was a bit confrontational to begin with, so you should expect confrontational responses, especially since you are defending an oppressor to an oppressed & angry party. I am thankful for the people who can calmly respond (from a place of safety) to some of the points/objections you (& others such as madincanada) have brought up, but we are not all so safe & healed to be able to respond so calmly. Being a psychiatric survivor in a world that constantly tells us we are wrong and defective – knowing there is nothing wrong with us but having society constantly and without any proof or evidence tell us there is – is an extremely tough & frustrating – sometimes maddening – place to be. If you choose to believe that there is something defective or physically wrong with you with no proof or evidence of such, fine, believe whatever you want to believe. But other people shouldn’t have to, and that’s why we are making the arguments we’re making and doing what we’re doing.

      I don’t think anyone here is interested in standing up for you much as a mental patient, because you seem to be okay with that identity. Since you are so busy defending psychiatry, then by all means, deal with it yourself. You be in charge of standing up for yourself in the face of anything that comes down the pike as a result of your “mental illness” identity/label. If you do come to be harmed in the future by this profession and its fallout, then maybe at that point you will remember some of what we’ve said. In the meantime, there are many people who are actually open to the message of hope, justice, the message that they are *fine* the way they are and the way they were created, and just need support, understanding, affirmation and love. Since you reject this message and think you know better, then please, look out for yourself and don’t expect us to. No sense in forcing help on those who don’t want it. “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Harriet Tubman. If you like your identity as a mental patient/mentally ill person then knock yourself out, but do not inflict it on others who don’t want and don’t deserve it, which is what support of biopsychiatry in the absence of any evidence does.

      Anyway, to circle back, I think talking less & listening more might help, but I know it can be very tough to break the hold of the indoctrinated psychiatric mindset. Our whole culture is under its spell. Well, our whole culture once accepted slavery and many other wrongs as commonplace too, and I’m confident this mistreatment and misunderstanding of people’s emotional and social problems will also go the same way. When Galileo said the earth was round, he was intensely ridiculed, censured, and disbelieved by almost everyone. The scientists of the day “knew” the earth was flat. Today we all know Galileo was right. Many of us on MiA believe we have seen the light – I know I do – and will do all we can to help change the conversation around what we are calling “mental illness” for the sake of justice for the oppressed & misunderstood, and REAL healing & societal health. Protestations like yours’ – and we have heard them a thousand times – will not deter our movement and goals, because we have all been where you are – having the same doubts and raising the same questions – and have moved beyond that place. Before reacting so much, you may want to investigate more – just a thought. Loren Mosher, Ty Colbert, who else – who are some good people to read who really explain the problem with biopsychiatry, its lack of evidence and science, its wrongful rejection of other healing modalities, its fundamental barking up the wrong tree… Personally I like psychologist Ty Colbert, not sure how you would respond to him, but I recommend Broken Brains or Wounded Hearts: What Causes Mental Illness, and Rape of the Soul: How the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Modern Psychiatry Has Failed Its Patients, along with his other books. Those are the ones that I have personally responded the best to, but that was after my mindset was already predisposed to believing in the emotional-pain model due to the experiences I had.

      Anyway, one last thought, the reason there is a lot of anger and upset here is because people who defend the chemical imbalance/”mental illness”/biopsychiatric model are not just talking about themselves, they’re talking about all of us. If it was just yourself you were affecting with your beliefs, we wouldn’t care so much, because if that’s what you want to believe & how you want to live it’s your own choice. It’s that the rest of us are implicated in whatever theory our society is currently going with as the cause and best approaches to emotional/mental suffering, so we have a high stake in this. And we are not going to let some misguided and misleading power structure pass down judgment on us that they have no factual reason to believe, when we ourselves are dying to tell our own version of the story, to which they will not listen. We basically feel like freedom fighters for ourselves and those in the same boat – we *are* freedom and dignity fighters – and the fact that you may not see or understand it that way, yet, does not change anything.

      Peace

      • Very well said!

        And to provide an analogy (another one :D), it’s like having a rapist disrupting a support group for raped women. The rapist goes around proclaiming how “positive” a rape can be for a woman if only that woman would be willing to “engage” the rapist and learn from the rape experience. What would that rapist expect?

        • Ha, very droll, cannotsay2013! When I used to go and see my coercive psychiatrist (the current one has never used coercion, perhaps because I have learnt the rules of the interpersonal game), I used to feel like a rape victim going to a group therapy session for rape victims run by my own rapist; like a person of Jewish ethnicity in Nazi Germany, going to see Julius Streicher for treatment for his racial-biological illness!

    • Just to point a couple of things out in context of this outpouring of comments we are all supposed to understand or it “might seem” that we are having bizarre assumptions.

      Two quotes:

      “How could I possibly think that the way I experience vision is by thinking about chemicals? How, as someone who has identified herself as having a trauma history, could I possibly think trauma is irrelevant to treatment?).”

      And a quote prior to this:

      “Also, human thought is no different from anything else in the universe – it comes down to electrical activity, just like the rest of it. Thinking there’s no way that chemical reactions could cause thoughts about themselves is like thinking there’s no way evolution could produce something as complex as sight.”

      As to the discussion about trauma. Suppressing a reaction to trauma, not only suppresses the experience of the individual; it also suppresses the understanding of trauma, something that applies to the perpetrator of trauma as well, who is acting out what he has experienced him or herself. In bio-psychiatry, the way it is practiced and forced on people, the perpetrator of trauma via enforced medicating is made out to be a healer. And dissent against this is violently suppressed, despite the preponderance of evidence that these medications correlate with an increase in disability, brain damage, an increase in violence, a loss of life, a suppression of creativity, personal initiative as well as a suppression of all parts of the personality. All this only bring out the importance of understanding trauma more, when the person said to be healing it is causing is. This of course is pretty standard in a fear based society. You see it in the penal system and the military industrial complex.

      And no one ANYWHERE on this thread has accused those dependent on psychiatry of not having self will, of not pulling themselves up by their boot-straps, who knows what else…. What people have done is patiently and thoughtfully brought forth the disciplines, the philosophies, the scientific evidence and the statistical evidence as to what correlates with healing rather than what makes money for the drug companies: to say that this is a “young science,” “the brain is a complex organ and difficult to understand,” “we have compelling evidence that there’s a chemical imbalance,” and other such catch phrases which excuse that while their enforced method is causing more and more disability, loss of life, paranoia against responses that would otherwise be understood rather than feared; they keep saying that somewhere in the future they will have the result they are looking for as long as they can keep on “medicating” people and disabling the brain. And the TRUE POINT isn’t that the people who don’t want to go along with the biological approach to psychiatry (which makes me wonder why we call something which only correlates with damaging the brain biological) that they are accusing others of not being healed; Those pointing out what biological psychiatry actually does DON”T have the right to be healed when they aren’t on medications; would they be institutionalized, or according to other methods of control. They don’t even have the right to have valid emotional responses to trauma; this is only seen as being “healed” when the responses have been chemically suppressed, or suppressed through fear based mind control (which is what threatening a person with brain damaging medications also is)

      So what is all of this complaining about? We all got it. And we all have complete empathy with it. Put someone in an asylum and tell them you won’t get out till you go along with our way of doing things, and you’ve made them believe that their oppressors are their healers. Giving someone a chemical imbalance is seen as treating one; using methods that correlate with more disability, loss of life, extreme addiction, brain damage, the works; this is seen as enhancing life.

      And I can’t stress more that when anyone actually takes time for themselves to simply find some peace, to let go of the stress that says you have to change things through some active force which is still in collusion with the same fear based methods that caused the trauma that caused the perpetrators to be the way they are who caused the trauma; when you dare to do this you are changing all of reality. You’re breaking the cycle and going someplace that’s actually creative not reactive. This doesn’t mean that someone on psychiatric medications can’t find this place of peace; but if you allow yourself the joy of who you are, of finding peace rather than avoiding it through guilt (guilt others are supposed to have would they simply find peace instead); then you won’t need these “medications” or many other controlling factors that give you a false sense of safety. I’ve seen enough people who are anti-psychiatry, anti-drugs, highly outspoken, have a whole movement behind them, are extremely articulate and can haul through miles of evidence supporting their claims; and yet with their own anger they can be causing the very symptoms, caused by the drugs, their body (or the body of another) might be able to alleviate, would they give themselves and others the right to not be so stressed and believe in something else beyond the control tactics they are investing in. Those people also have difficulty getting off of the drugs, or are still disabled by them.

  26. Layla

    I hope you are still reading even if you are not writing, and I hope you plan to participate on this site in the future. Your blogging, together with the multiple responses over the past several days, was some of the most interesting and spirited discussion to take place on MIA in some time.

    It is interesting to note that it was over two thirds into the dialogue before there was any real mention of any significant details from your own narrative. It finally came out that you had experienced trauma in your life and some issues of addiction. This was no surprise to me or probably to many other participants on this website. The symptoms that get labeled as “mental illness” do not come from out of thin air and most certainly are not from “bad genes” or other related theories of “original sin.”

    Biological Psychiatry has no interest in a person’s narrative; they only listen to it in order to cherry pick a set of psychological symptoms so they can tag some one with a diagnosis of a brain “disease” or “disorder” from their DSM bible and then throw mind numbing medications at it. For those of us genuinely trying to help people in distress, the narrative is everything and the so-called symptoms are just normal responses to abnormal events. Helping people connect up their symptoms of distress with the actual events in their life that gave rise to them can be a critical part of some one understanding and gaining control over those symptoms.

    Layla,in my blog, “Addiction, Biological Psychiatry, and the Disease model” (go to the “Writers” section and click on Richard Lewis) I discuss how addictive behaviors and the symptoms that get labeled as “mental illness” are usually formerly useful coping mechanisms that get stuck in the “on” position and then often become harmful and self-defeating to the individual experiencing them. I hope you get a chance to read this and I would appreciate your feedback on its content.

    As to the question, why do I say I am anti-Biological Psychiatry as opposed to anti-psychiatry? Is this just more “us against them” type polarizing polemics or part of an actual winning strategy to “unite all who can be united” in transforming our reality in the mental health field?

    Layla, because I am anti-Biological Psychiarty does not mean I don’t believe biology or brain chemistry is involved in thoughts, feelings and behavior. It’s just that their biological and/or genetic determinist and reductionist theories are dead wrong. Biological Psychiatry is defined as the wedding of genetic theories of “mental illness” with Big Pharma, the major training institutions for modern psychiatry, and the current leadership of the American Psychiatric Association. This is a destructive and historically reactionary institution. It cannot be and should not be reformed. It belongs in the same museum with slavery, Nazism, racism, sexism, homophobia etc. etc.

    History(I believe it was Dr. Peter Breggin who actually coined this label) came up with the name “Biological Psychiatry” to name the “enemy” and delineate this toxic trend from mainstream psychiatry (which was not without its own problems). I believe Breggin’s intention was to link this trend with the historically related trend of biological determinism and modern eugenics. Not all the terms defining historical trends are literally accurate when you examine the individual words. For example, National Socialism (or Nazism) besmirches the actual meaning of “socialism. The Socio-biologists, were an earlier version ( E.O. Wilson and Conrad Lorenz’s “Naked Ape” in the 60’s) of todays biological determinists. There is nothing inherently wrong with the prefix “socio” or the word “biologist.” It’s just that history once again came up with this particular name.

    Once again, I say we do not know what the institution of psychiatry will look like in a post revoltionary society; it must and will be radically different. We need to advocate for Biological Psychiatry to be completely defeated and the entire mental health system to be totally dismantled. Let’s try to unite progressive psychiatrists around these demands. I believe a current minority of psychiatrists (with the urging and support of the survivor/activist wing of our movement) can be won to this type of program and could be supported in their efforts to wreak havoc in the APA and other organizations to target psychiatric abuses and isolate the reactionary leaders of Biological Psychiatry.

    It is wrong to tell Dr. Sandra Steingard and Dr Dan Fisher that they have no right to exist and must abandon their profession. Progressive doctors (even if it is only a small minority at this time) are valuable allies in the struggle to overturn Biological Psychiatry and help implement and develop humane forms of detox protocols and other progressive types of aid for people in extreme states of psychological distress. THIS IS NOT COMPROMISING OUR PRINCIPLES OR SOMEHOW GIVING IN TO THE ENEMY; THIS IS A WINNING STRATEGY!!!

    We have watched people like Dr.Sandra Steingard grow through her participation on this website and we can learn from her too. Layla, was, at times, treated harshly in a few responses to her dialogue in this thread. She is exactly the type of person we need to win over to build this movement. She has the qualities to become a major creative agent of change. We must trust the power of our ideas and passion and not get lazy and resort to put downs and sarcasm to make our points. After all it was Laura herself who said that Layla sounded just like her two years ago; is this how we should have reacted to Laura in her earlier state of “awakening?”

    Layla, I look forward to your participation and growth in this community.

    Down with Biological Psychiatry! A Better world is Possible!

    Richard

    • \\…because I am anti-Biological Psychiaty does not mean I don’t believe biology or brain chemistry is involved in thoughts, feelings and behavior. It’s just that their biological and/or genetic determinist and reductionist theories are dead wrong. Biological Psychiatry is defined as the wedding of genetic theories of “mental illness” with Big Pharma, the major training institutions for modern psychiatry, and the current leadership of the American Psychiatric Association. This is a destructive and historically reactionary institution. It cannot be and should not be reformed. It belongs in the same museum with slavery, Nazism, racism, sexism, homophobia etc. …//

      Richard,

      Excellent comment. It caught my eye when you first posted it, last night. Since then, I’ve reread it a number of times. It is *quite* educational.

      You do *great* justice to this view, that: campaigning against something called “biological psychiatry” may now be integral to containing the historical evils of Psychiatry (evils, at last, infecting the entire ‘mental health field’).

      Never, previously, have I seen such a good explanation of what “biological psychiatry” implies, to critics of psychiatry; and, I’ve long been uncomfortable with the “Down with Biological Psychiatry” banner – because it does seem to knock something inherently beneficial (that being *biology*).

      According to Dictionary.com’s first definition of ‘biology’ (derived from the Random House Dictionary):

      “[Biology is] the science of life or living matter in all its forms and phenomena, especially with reference to origin, growth, reproduction, structure, and behavior.”

      From that point of view, what could be wrong with any form of biology?

      I am a big fan of biology – thus, often, wonder: Is “biological psychiatry” really the problem?

      You’ve done a wonderful job of explaining what “biological psychiatry” means to yourself and to others who raise the banner, “Down with Biological Psychiatry”; simply, never before had it been explained to me, so well.

      May I simply add, that, *still* (even after reading and rereading, to carefully consider your words), I’m inclined to side with those who prefer another way of identifying and condemning the evils of psychiatry; I say, “Down with Medical-Coercive Psychiatry!”

      Hopefully, it is obvious, this means, that: when it comes to psychiatry, above all else, I oppose the uninvited *imposition* of its ‘medical treatments’ upon people. Psychiatry is a belief system – quite like any religion – and, thus, should *not* be afforded permissions, by the State, to impose its will and its ‘treatments’ on anyone.

      In fact, it is a pseudo-scientific belief system; but, because its clothes itself in a white medical frock, it appears as though a legitimate authority, on life, to the masses.

      From this point of view, I do like, “Take Down Psychiatry!” as a rallying cry, because, to my mind, that does not mean ‘abolish psychiatry’ – but, rather, ‘take it DOWN’ …as one might *take-down* any system (or institution) that society has *mistakenly* placed on a pedestal, above the law.

      Again, I say, excellent comment…

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

      • P.S. – I just commented, “Psychiatry is a belief system” …and concluded: Psychiatry represents a, “system (or institution) that society has *mistakenly* placed on a pedestal, above the law.”

        Of course, it is a mistake to place *any* system or institution above the law.

        And, why I say Psychiatry has been placed above the law (for some readers, this may already be obvious; for others, it may be only vaguely understood):

        In the U.S., we have a Bill of Rights containing a certain Amendment, to our Constitution, which would (if properly defended and exercised) guarantee all citizens freedom from slavery.

        [That is the *Thirteenth* Amendment.]

        Other Amendments are similarly suggestive of protections, that are routinely violated by court-ordered psychiatric so-called ‘care’; e.g., The First Amendment is aimed at guaranteeing freedom of speech. (That flies out the window the moment one is forcibly drugged into unconsciousness.)

        There is also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Check out, e.g., Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”)

        I could go on – but am feeling I’ve said enough already.

        Respectfully,

        ~Jonah

  27. I had no intention of commenting further, but having reflected upon what I said, I realize that in a post criticizing reactivity, I was being almost entirely reactive. I’d like to take myself to task for that. Furthermore, I’d like to leave in the spirit of politeness that has generally characterized this conversation, So, if I may, I’ll take a mulligan…

    I wouldn’t call this a retraction, per se, but I do regret going with a snarky and sanctimonious delivery. I blame it on my brain. No, I’m kidding — seriously though, without getting into whether or not various parts of the message were warranted or unwarranted, I’d like to offer an apology for it’s tone.

    I have read through the comments posted since my last one, and I’d like to respond to a few:

    Duane, thank you for the resources on outcomes of antipsychotics, and I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you before. I really appreciate the tips, and I’ve been slowly making my way through the articles. They are very interesting and very alarming – certainly a lot for me to read and think about. Thanks again

    madincanada, I know you didn’t direct any comments to me, but I wanted to say something to you anyway. Whatever differences of opinion there may be between myself and others here, I feel pretty sure we all agree on one thing: there is hope.

    Nathan, thank you for your message. I’m deeply sorry for the tough road you’ve had to travel. I sympathize with your concerns about gay adoption; how tragic that loving parents and an orphaned child might be kept apart because of something so utterly inconsequential as what happens in the bedroom between two consenting adults, who love each other nonetheless. I wish you the very best.

    Richard, thank you for your message as well. I have appreciated the dialogue with many here — I’ve learned and grown from many of the exchanges. I’m not sure I’ll be back though. Hostility, sarcasm, etc. are all things I can handle (not sure I’d choose to stick around – maybe, maybe not, but I can handle it). But the comment comparing me to a rapist is…I don’t know how well I can handle that, to be honest.

    • Layla, that comment is an analogy, not a personal attack on you. It was meant, I believe, to explain to you how people here feel about biological psychiatry, what it has done to them, and what, because of what it has done to them, a defense of it does to them. It is meant to explain to you why you see the reactions to your comments here that you do see. Here’s a friend of mine, Olga Runciman, chair of the Danish Hearing Voices Network, and soon-to-be psychologist, explaining why it actually is a very to-the-point analogy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnsCyR59Hd8

    • Layla, I also cringed when I read sarcastic comments asking you whether you needed to go to your NAMI next meeting. Don’t let such remarks get you stressed out. And I’m sorry I stopped reading all the comments because it was too much; but I understand you are against anyone being drugged against their will.

      I’ll try to explain the comparison to rape. When a person is forced drugged (which you are against, so that’s not a valid comparison) then they feel this is like rape, because it’s an intrusion, a physical intrusion into their body, often injected. And many people have had just plain horrible experiences with this, with the effects of the medications, which they weren’t allowed to even see as being horrible or refuse. In fact I have a friend who I couldn’t even ask about her experiences in an asylum without her feeling attacked to just talk about it. It becomes that much of a trigger. So, when one is heralding all these ideas that the drugs could be helpful (and promoting ideology which is fine, but overlooks all of the damage done), people respond the way they do. What’s truly sad is that… well for example, I don’t believe you stop rapists by locking them up, traumatizing them more than they already were to become the way they were and acting like this alleviates all of the overlooked aspects and machinery of society which actually caused the trauma which caused their lack of respect for themselves and for the human condition. That’s more how you produce them.

      I also find it quite misplaced (whoever it was) to quote Martin Luther King in the same post where one is ameliorating the penal system as a means to change things, when this is also pro trauma as much as or maybe even worse than the pro-drugging movement. Sorry.

      And Layla, your brain must be tired now. Don’t blame it (which you weren’t anyhow) for your (whatever you were joking about); let it rest….

      • Excellent comments Nijinksy.

        The casuistries spun in support of this perversion of proper medical treatment (which depends for its character upon the informed consent of the patient) will sound absolutely absurd to any generation whose collective psychology hasn’t been infiltrated by the kind of nonsense generated by the institution of forced psychiatry, just as it would sound absurd to our generation if state-employed, messianic-egotists were to similarly start literally raping us on the grounds that we supposedly have a libidinal illness which they are ordained by mercy and compassion to save us from!

        Forced “treatment” belongs in the armoury of the torturer, not the physician, and can be neither justified on moral grounds or the grounds of neccessity (only the most unconscionable, conceited messianic-psychiatrist would claim that there is a moral imperative to forced drug etc. any patient, and the same applies to those who claim there is a need to do it, and this is no mere ivory tower philosophizing).

        The analogy is a strong one, although, as with any analogy, there are contrasts as well continuities bewteen the two. Nevertheless, I believe if you perform a kind of eidetic reduction on the two phenomena of forced treatment and forced sex (reducing the two phenomena to their essence), then you are left with a similar essence.

        As Nijinsky says, both involve an intrusion into the body, and by extension, a usurpation of an individual’s self-sovereignty. Of course, according to psychiatric casusitry, this is sanctioned by the ture interests of patient, or is rationalized along the grounds of the patient’s presumptive anosognosia, which is little more than an adjunct to the exercise of psychiatric power, as well as a medical mystification of a phenomenon best understood through a moral and criminological framework.

        Yet there are admittedly points of incongruency between the two, yet they don’t neccessarily cover psychiatry’s willing executioners in glory.

        The rapist figures prominently in contemporary demonology, as he should, yet in reality your average rapist is a small-time criminal in comparison to his medical counterparts.

        For example, it is one thing for someone to stick something into your body, but what the psychiatrist sticks into your body can cause immense harm not just psychologically, but physically, often imperilling your very existence, and afflicting tortures on you which I, as many others will testfy are amongst the most horrendous and frankly nightmarish experiences of our lives.

        In forcing you to take some of these drugs or some other forced “treatment”, the psychiatrist is not only performing a crime similar to rape, but often compounding the sheer depravity of this crime, through abuse, torture, and sometimes even murder!

  28. I am truly sorry to any and all who have been triggered by anything I’ve said. That was certainly never my intention, and I regret that anyone who has been through trauma — I do understand that forced treatment is traumatic; honestly, I do — has suffered further pain because of insensitivity on my part. Whatever the nature and intent of the comment about “it’s like a rapist,” it was painful for me. Nonetheless, I believe I can learn and grow by sticking around, so I hope that anyone who was hurt by triggering caused by my insensitivity will grant me the favor of pressing “reset” and starting fresh should I pop up in the comments on some future (or other) blog entries.

      • Layla,

        I can appreciate some of what you had to say in this exchange. I am no fan of ‘bio-psychiatry’ as practiced today, but I am certainly not against biology, and have an appreciation for science.

        I’ve take some flack regarding my interest in some of the underlying physical conditions that get labled “mental” illness; along with my appreciation for holistic approaches to address these issues.

        This stance has caused some grief among some readers on MIA, but it seems to make sense to me that we don’t rule out any/all forms of underlying (dare I say, biological) issues that might need to be addressed –

        http://discoverandrecover.wordpress.com/root-causes-of-mental-illness/

        Some may call me a hypocrite. So be it.
        I think the reason why their was so much passion on this post was that so many people have been traumatised by psychiatry…. and often it has been done with force.

        My best,

        Duane

    • Re: the “it’s like a rapist” comment… To me it makes more sense to compare someone in your position not to a rapist, but more like to someone who’s been abused, perhaps, who then begins to identify with the abuser & start adopting their state of mind/rationalizations/explanations for why things are the way they are etc., like a Stockholm Syndrome-type situation. Not that you intended to do any of that. But maybe that’s more what (commenter?) was getting at. This is probably a common occurrence in psychiatry & really quite understandable, given how thoroughly we all are indoctrinated into the biopsyhiatric worldview (& quite frankly abused with/by it). It is incredibly shocking when one starts realizing that our trust has been totally misplaced, and we are being systematically lied to or misinformed by people and institutions that are supposed to be credible, trustworthy, the supposed authorities & experts, sources to whom we are told we can go for real ‘help.’ It can seem preposterous at first and that’s probably part of why more people don’t get beyond this point, don’t come to see the trauma-informed angle that we here at MiA and in the critical- or anti-psych movement (or whatever you want to call it) have mostly come to know & understand. If it hadn’t happened to me, and I hadn’t had a contrarian nature like yours as well as a very fortunate experience which showed me that with the right environmental ingredients *I could be totally fine*, who knows what party line I would be towing right now :p So, I don’t think it makes sense to say that you’re like a rapist at all, but obviously, you can see how indeed triggering this is for a lot of us & there’s a really good reason for that! I’m so glad to see that you have really taken all this in & have come to understand what some of us were trying to get across. It can be tough to explain this position especially when we know how little likely we are to be heard & taken seriously by many in the mainstream, when all this has been really frustrating, isolating, & traumatizing (& frankly just hard to believe), and when people are apt to respond negatively to our expressions of emotion & passion around this, valid though they may be.

      Sorry my writing is not the most articulate, but hoping you get the point :p

      • “…my writing is not the most articulate…”

        ssenerch,

        That’s the only line, in your comment, that I care to dispute – as I feel your comment very well says what I wanted to say, about the “it’s like a rapist” comment… (but was feeling I’d said quite enough already).

        Yes, it does seem to me, a Stockholm Syndrome-type situation – especially, as Layla concludes, by explaining, “I’m wondering if maybe I’m not in touch with my own pain around traumatic psych hospital experiences. Since I’m trying to chill out on the long-windedness thing as best I can, and because I don’t want to do any more inadvertent triggering, I won’t get into that, other than to say I rarely connect, inside, with anything around what happened, and on the occasion that I start to, I shudder and block it out. When I talk about it, it’s as though I’m describing a scene in a movie or book – perhaps that feeling is holding me back from understanding something important.”

        Surely, there *is* something important begging to be understood, when one shudders, at considering a past event and blocks it out (and, when talking about it, feels as though describing a scene that s/he herself/himself did not experience personally).

        Layla,

        Especially, as you are a student psychology, I recommend studying up, on the subject of trauma and trauma-recovery.

        Currently, I’m reading through Judith Herman’s book (Trauma and Recovery); thus far, I’m finding it a very good read.

        Respectfully,

        ~Jonah

  29. Duane,

    Thank you for the apology – I appreciate it, although any hard feelings I might have had about the comment had already dissipated. It wasn’t a big deal in the scheme of things anyway, and I have a better sense of where everyone was coming from now. I was feeling attacked, but someone rightly pointed out – what did I expect? I did come on pretty strong, which in retrospect was a counterproductive way for me to bust into a conversation among people who have visited this site a lot more than I have. It was an expression of frustration because I’d wanted to comment for a while – I say that by way of explanation, not an excuse, because obnoxiousness almost never serves any worthwhile purpose. It certainly didn’t serve mine, and I wish I’d chosen to ask questions instead of making assumptions and accusations. Once Laura explained how I’d misinterpreted her position, I realized how off base I was before. Much of the criticism I’ve received has been warranted – I have been listening and reflecting, but unfortunately I mostly did that after coming back with a reply, rather than before. I’ve got a stubborn, contrarian streak and it was silly to let that get in the way. And I know I’m inordinately verbose. Totally fair that some called me on that. I’m trying not to do it again now, especially because I realize people are surely very sick of hearing from me at this point, but long-windedness is a bad habit that’s hard for me to break. I’m working on it. I also didn’t know what I didn’t know – another reason to begin with questions and reflection. One thing I didn’t know was the depth of pain some feel around the topic at hand. I really do feel very bad about that, and my apologies again to anyone reading this. I’m wondering if maybe I’m not in touch with my own pain around traumatic psych hospital experiences. Since I’m trying to chill out on the long-windedness thing as best I can, and because I don’t want to do any more inadvertent triggering, I won’t get into that, other than to say I rarely connect, inside, with anything around what happened, and on the occasion that I start to, I shudder and block it out. When I talk about it, it’s as though I’m describing a scene in a movie or book – perhaps that feeling is holding me back from understanding something important.

    Thanks to all, and maybe I’ll see you around.

    Peace (sincerely, not the snarky way),

    Layla

    • I seconded the NAMI reference and I do not apologize for it. I think it’s about time we are unashamedly defenders of our rights as victims of an institution, psychiatry, whose only objective is social control.

      Psychiatry has damaged me in many ways. As most here, I was totally indifferent towards it (just “assumed” that it was right) until I was viciously attacked by it.

      In addition to the humiliating experience of being detained and tied up for almost one day (think about it, ALMOST ONE DAY tied up as if I was a very dangerous criminal, and then several months committed with limited exits) in spite of having committed no crimes, I lost my parents/siblings, my marriage fell apart and I had to “pretend” I was happy with “the help” provided if I wanted to get out of there. I was forced to tell total strangers details about my life and my own personal thoughts that only people very close to me, like my ex wife, knew if I wanted to get out of the incarceration.

      You said you are gay. I happen to not support gay marriage neither a lot of the gay agenda (though I am fine with civil unions without adoption rights). What business is that of a psychiatrist telling me that I have a problem because I hold these views? Just as it was wrong to have psychiatry label gays as “mentally ill” for being gay, it is equally wrong for some random psychiatrist telling me that I will not be “cured” until I adopt the pro gay rights agenda. I could go on.

      I do not have a chemical imbalance and I am not “mentally ill”. I happen to have different thought processes, and that’s fine. Just as highly creative people are not the norm, and that’s fine too. As long as I comply with the law, what business is it of a psychiatrist of what I think about certain matters? Well, as the psychiatrist that committed me said “it is my business and I am going to detain you because I want to”. I have nothing but contempt for psychiatry, and the defenders of coercive psychiatry. I am an absolutist on that matter, with no room for compromise. Just as there should be no room for compromise when it comes to slavery, segregation or that a rapist should go to jail to pay for his crimes.

    • Layla,

      Personally, I think you’ve really redeemed yourself with these comments. You showed that you really do have an open mind and are willing to consider criticism & grow from it. That takes maturity & integrity. By the way, I think that “stubborn, contrarian streak” is something that, if put to good use, can really be a strength and help to accomplish a lot 🙂 I hope you are stimulated to continue exploring these questions here at MiA +/or elsewhere. We need people thinking critically about the status quo & always looking to improve a situation/system which, by all accounts, needs a lot of work. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on all the feedback your posts have gotten & for showing a real willingness to engage with us here. I think you’ve shown a lot of integrity & I commend you for that.

      Peace & all the best.

      • A special Thank You, to Laura, for having starting this conversation – and much thanks to everyone who has posted comments.

        For me, the timing of Laura’s post was perfect; for this is precisely, the 25 year ‘anniversary’ of the last times I was ever “hospitalized” – and, those memories are quite haunting, still…

        (Note: two times, I was “involuntarily hospitalized” twice, in quick succession; i.e., I went in and out and back in, quite quickly – twice; thus, I think of myself as having lived through two periods of “hospitalization”; the most recent period was exactly 25 years ago.)

        The first time I was ever “hospitalized” (27 years ago), it was after throwing plates at my parents’ garage door; it was quite ‘out of character’ for me, to do such a thing; so, that I had done it, was scary for my family and friends (though, scaring people had *not* been my intent).

        One could reasonably argue, that I was “hospitalized” for ‘good’ reasons, that first time. (Though, I would not agree.)

        When I was “hospitalized” two years later (25 years ago), it was for no reason, other than the fact that I’d come to eschew all the ‘meds’ I *supposedly* ‘needed’ to be taking…

        Here’s what happened:

        I’d confessed, to a trusted relative, that I’d flushed all the ‘meds’ down the toilet – and explained to him, that: I had begun to feel, that if I went on taking ‘meds’, I’d wind up taking all of them, at once.

        I told him that I felt the ‘meds’ had been destroying my creativity – and, thus, slowly killing me; I insisted, “I simply cannot going ‘medicating’ myself.”

        I concluded, by explaining, very clearly, that: “I flushed them down the toilet to save my life.”

        The conversation was calm.

        I was feeling not the least bit of distress.

        At that point, I’d been revisiting my original “hospitalization” experience, in writings – and realizing the extent, to which I’d been *traumatized* by those experiences. (Indeed, to say they were *extremely* traumatizing experiences, is an understatement.)

        I was quite pleased by those writings, and I’d been writing other things, which pleased me no less – essays and short-stories.

        Also, I was painting (for the first time ever, as an adult).

        I’d just finished an oil painting – a kind of self-portrait, conveying the sense of my “hospitalization” trauma.

        I was very happy with that painting.

        I had a strong feeling, that now I was moving on, with my life – after its having been ‘stalled’ by ‘med’ effects.

        So, I was doing well, I felt…

        Yet, my trusted relative relayed my confession to my psychiatrist; and, next thing I knew, I was being “hospitalized” on the grounds, that, supposedly, I was a “danger” to myself; the ‘commitment’ papers read, “He says he wants to take all his medications and kill himself.”

        I have no word to describe how much I regret having told that trusted relative all I’d told him; however, I do believe he meant well.

        I will say no more now, about that time… except that it added so much more trauma to my life.

        I have thanked Laura, above – and all who have commented, on this thread; thank you, also, to the others who work to keep this site operating.

        Thank you, especially, Robert Whitaker. (I am grateful for your work – and grateful that this site exists.)

        Respectfully,

        ~Jonah

        • Thanks Jonah,

          Your own experience gives the rationale for me having shut down all relationships with the few people that know that I was committed.

          It wasn’t easy but as I said, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on you. I would not trade my freedom for a relationship with those people ever!

          I believe you that the psychiatrist lied to have you committed. When my ex wife went to the NAMI meetings advised by my American psychaitrist (at the time I didn’t have a clue about what NAMI represented so I didn’t object), she came back telling stories of psychiatrists lying to force “treatment” on people given that, as I stated above, legally speaking the “dangerous” standard must be met.

          It’s really troubling. Following up with my “I have a dream” comment, I truly believe that up until several of these psychiatrists, and top big pharma executives, end up in jail for their crimes, the abuse will unfortunately continue.

          Let’s celebrate though that you have been free all this time!

          • “I believe you that the psychiatrist lied to have you committed.”

            cannotsay2013,

            Thank you for your kind words (for those, which I’ve highlighted, above – but also for, these: “Let’s celebrate though that you have been free all this time!”) …I am *grateful* for them, truly – as this time (marking 25 years, from my last period of “hospitalization”) is quite meaningful, to me; and, these latest MIA conversations (not only in response to this great post, by Laura – but, in response to other posts, as well) are giving me pause, to, more deeply than ever before, consider the EVILS, that are inherent, in medical-coercive Psychiatry.

            I am actually attempting to back away from focusing upon that time, momentarily.

            I wish to celebrate my freedom.

            After all, to focus upon the EVILS, of any phenomena, can become a very *heavy* activity (whether that focus is upon the EVILS of medical-coercive Psychiatry or the EVILS of mass-shooters or the EVILS of a dictator who goes to war, against his own people); after a while, those contemplations may become counter-productive; for, focusing exclusively upon EVILS, one is, likely, either going to scare oneself or develop a burning anger.

            If no *action* is taken, to creatively expel the anger, one typically winds up ‘depressing’ oneself (more or less unconsciously); otherwise, one may express the anger, more or less suddenly, in a way that’s harmful – or else, ‘just’ scary to people.

            I expressed my anger in a way that was scary, at age 21.5, and – as the consequences were so extremely aversive – I learned to never do that again.

            So, for me, there is ‘just’ this possibility: I could wind up ‘depressing’ myself – if I continue to focus endlessly upon EVILS, such as medical-coercive Psychiatry.

            Personally, I feel that, ‘depressing’ oneself needn’t be considered a ‘bad’ thing; it may be positively useful, at times; but, concentrating exclusively on EVILs is a burden *too heavy* to bear.

            By the way, I am sorry to hear that you are so fully distanced from your entire family; however, I do understand your reasons for choosing such distance. (I already had the sense of that situation from reading the letter you wrote to the New York Times, on use of force, in Psychiatry.) The average observer cannot even *begin* to imagine why anyone would choose to be entirely estranged (distanced) from his/her whole family. I can understand why you choose that estrangement – given my feeling that it really is better to be safe than sorry.

            Had it not been for my parents swearing that they would absolutely never again seek to have me “hospitalized,” I would *surely* have done exactly what you did – which is ‘simply’ create a ‘new life’ elsewhere.

            Right now, as this time marks 25 years from those last “hospitalizations,” I’m actually able to feel quite grateful for my parents. (My mom is deceased, but my dad is alive and well.)

            With my help, my parents became very understanding, of just how incredibly ignorant were those psychiatrists who ‘treated’ me, as “mentally ill” and who insisted that, such would be my fate, forever.

            I am deeply grateful for so much that my parents did to help me, after letting go of the notion, that I needed psychiatry.

            Yet, I am led to assess all that I lost, through being ‘tagged’ by psychiatry (i.e., being labeled), as someone who *supposedly* has a so-called “serious mental illness”; the losses are massive; and, my own experiences, with medical-coercive psychiatry, were incredibly traumatizing – and the labels, incredibly stigmatizing.

            (I can’t even begin to enumerate the ways in which my life has been limited, by psychiatric stigma.)

            From this point, forward, I am dedicating my life to fighting the EVIL which is Medical-Coercive Psychiatry.

            But, also, I am taking up, this banner: “Down with Biological Psychiatry!” …because, I am realizing: really, there is no way that Psychiatry will *ever* approach biology in an *honest* way. Not even a chance.

            There’s simply no way, that it shall *ever* do so; it can’t; it’s just too deeply invested in its history, of propagating lies.

            (You responded to my comment, above, by letting me know: you believe that the psychiatrist lied to have me committed. Indeed, he did; and, that was *not* the only time, that happened; the first time I was ever “hospitalized,” the E.R. psychiatrist assigned a resident, to read me the ‘assessment’ questions; all through that inquisition, I answered in ways that made it perfectly clear, I was *not* at all suicidal; nonetheless, the resident went out of the ‘examination’ room, came back, gave me a couple more questions; to me, they seemed as though ‘existential’ questions; one of them was, “Do you wish to die and be reborn in a new life?” I thought about that momentarily; and, because I was/am drawn to Buddhism, which is a religion that usually includes belief in reincarnation, I thought it would not be a problem to say, “Yes,” to that questions. Also, I felt that the that inquisition was becoming interminable; it had gone on and on; though I had been calm all along; I was feeling myself losing my patience; I wanted it done with already… So… To make a long story, short: As soon as that resident heard me say, “Yes,” he left the room; next thing I knew, I was being strapped down… to be shot up with drugs. That ‘treatment’ was being ‘justified’ on the basis of my being called a “danger” to myself. The ‘commitment’ papers read: “Says he wishes to die and be reborn in a new life.”)

            Anyway, thanks again for your kind words; they mean a lot to me (at this time, especially, they mean very much – more than most could realize).

            Take Good Care, And Be Well…

            Respectfully,

            ~Jonah

          • “The average observer cannot even *begin* to imagine why anyone would choose to be entirely estranged (distanced) from his/her whole family”

            Yes, it’s only those who have been through the experience that can understand why I made the choice. I did it for my own sanity and well being. After I decided to say no to psychiatry, and my marriage was over, my commitment was the subject of every phone conversation that I had with them. There were also veiled threats that they would try to commit me again during my next visit to their country.

            I am lucky that we live in different countries, so after I made the choice of shutting down the relationship with them, all they could do is to attempt from time to time to contact me via email or phone. After several times that I didn’t answer those emails or I didn’t pick up the phone, those attempts stopped. So that was about it.

            If my family had been also American, I would have probably changed cities and my name to hide from them. So in this regard, it was kind of easy :D.

            “From this point, forward, I am dedicating my life to fighting the EVIL which is Medical-Coercive Psychiatry.”

            I will do that as well, eventually :D. Now I am enjoying my new life with psychiatry a thing of the past. The only thing that perturbs my peace is when psychiatric tormentors take it to the airwaves when something tragic happens, such as the Virginia Tech, the Colorado or the Sandy Hook tragedies. All those calls to lower the standard of civil commitment in the US make my life difficult for a few weeks until the next tragedy happens. It doesn’t matter how distant the episode is, it damages you and stigmatizes you for the rest of your life.

            But going back to the point of psychiatry being an evil endeavor. It is. There is no question about that. I am old enough to have learned the lesson that you cannot reason with evil. You can either ignore it (which is what I am doing now with psychiatry) or launch a full scale war against it in hopes of defeating it.

            I think that the only hope that the struggle against psychiatry has to be successful is if all the different groups in our movement joined forces in a CCHR style attack against institutionalized psychiatry. And before somebody accuses me of being a scientologist or a defender of CCHR, I am either. I am saying is that something with that kind of reach and budget is what we need to be successful. Imagine how different things would be if we had a budget of 100 million dollars a year to, among other things, expose psychiatric lies or carefully pick high profile lawsuits against the likes of Martin Keller or Charles Nemeroff. Psychiatry would be on its knees in a 10 year time frame. Until that happens, we won’t be successful.

            “you believe that the psychiatrist lied to have me committed”

            For the year or so that I was seeing a psychiatrist in the US he told me several times that he would have also committed me if the legal framework in the US was the same as it was back in that other country. So sure, these people do not commit more only because of fear to legal repercussions. That does not prevent the most dishonest among them (ie, the majority of them) from lying if needed to force “treatment” on their victims.

            Thank you for your very thoughtful comments.

          • P.S. – Please, excuse me, as I’m going on a bit more, about those experiences, of having had psychiatrists lie, to ‘commit’ me; actually, I care to be accurate and say, I have those ‘commitment’ papers stuffed away somewhere, so I can double-check them; but, now, off the top of my head, I’m recalling, more precisely, about the E.R. psychiatrist: in claiming I was supposedly a “danger” to myself, he penned these words, “Wishes to die and be reborn in a new life.” From that point of view, and, from all that I’ve said, above, you can see that *technically* speaking, he was *not* lying. He was telling the truth. And, I’m sure he honestly thought I was, possibly, a danger to myself, as he had various family members of mine reporting to him, on my dish-breaking activities, the previous night; and, I suspect he had certain *mistaken* reports, about my behaviors, e.g., as described, in the following blog post (which some MIA readers have already seen): http://beyondlabeling.posterous.com/an-open-letter-to-lucy-johnstone-psych-psychi Really, all things considered, I can’t blame that E.R. psychiatrist for thinking I needed professional help – nor for suspecting I might possibly be a ‘danger’ to myself. But, really, I was no danger to myself – except to the extent that, eventually, I’d allowed myself to be pressured into entering that Emergency Room! I’d walked into that; and, I take responsibility for that decision. And, as I had, indeed, answered, “Yes,” to that last ‘assessment’ question (“Do you wish to die and be reborn in a new life?”), he was *not* lying, when he wrote down, “Wishes to die and be reborn in a new life.” He wasn’t lying; he was bullshitting; and, he thought he was doing so for my own good. Yes, indeed, that sort of behavior – professional bullshitting – is *quite* common, amongst psychiatrists. And, I’m sure that most psychiatrists feel they have their “patient’s” best interest in mind, when they’re doing it…

          • “The only thing that perturbs my peace is when psychiatric tormentors take it to the airwaves when something tragic happens, such as the Virginia Tech, the Colorado or the Sandy Hook tragedies. All those calls to lower the standard of civil commitment in the US make my life difficult for a few weeks until the next tragedy happens. It doesn’t matter how distant the episode is, it damages you and stigmatizes you for the rest of your life.”

            Many psychiatric survivors are affected similarly by such news. (I am no exception.)

            “You can either ignore it (which is what I am doing now with psychiatry) or launch a full scale war against it in hopes of defeating it.”

            Quite honestly, I don’t hope to defeat it – except by increments. Psychiatry can only be put down incrementally, I believe; and, where ever it is put down, it shall not go down completely – nor either for long – as it is driven by such *deeply* entrenched, personal and societal fears/prejudices.

            The psychiatrists are scared of ‘monsters’ – while, in fact, Psychiatry is the Ultimate Monster; it is all about attempting to control ‘irrational’ forces, ‘over there’ in the life of, ‘the Other’; indeed, every psychiatrist views himself/herself a kind of ‘saviour’ of lost souls – and is more or less tempted by the Ring…

            (The battle against Psychiatry could be considered as somewhat like the battle against Sauron’s army in The Lord of the Rings. There, the battle seems won, in the end; however, that battle is a diversion, to assist the heroes, in the ultimate task. I.e., the principle heroes of this story, and in all reality, are those who band together and strive, in earnest, to destroy the Rings. No one should possess the Rings. But, alas, even as one Ring is destroyed, another shall be found; and, there will *always* be dark forces, determined to forge new Rings… The battle against EVIL is eternal.)

          • You don’t have to provide details about your own incarceration. I believe that psychiatry is populated by mostly dishonest people. After all, to become a psychiatrist you have to be so egocentric as to be convinced that you have the power to enforce which behaviors are “normal”. In that regard, psychiatrists, as I have said many times, are like evil members of past institutions dedicated to enforce “normal behavior”, like the Inquisition.

            “Many psychiatric survivors are affected similarly by such news. (I am no exception.)”

            Yes, I know that such is the case from my interactions with other psychiatric survivors. I link it to the experience of a victim of rape or of a violent crime when they see their rapist/attacker. It doesn’t matter how long ago the thing happened, it disturbs you immensely. Unlike these other victims though, we have the added injury that these tormentors can legally go around proclaiming their right to abuse people.

            With respect to the battle against psychiatry, I agree that it is a very tough one. After all, despite its nonsensical postulates, psychiatry has always been able to adapt because it helped the powers that be to get rid of the undesirables. Let’s not forget though that no empire, however powerful, lasts forever. Psychiatry will fall as well. I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime or afterwards, but it will.

          • cannotsay2013,

            What you’ve just posted (on March 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm) rings *very* true, in *many* ways. I like it *quite* a lot – because it resonates so well, with me, at so many levels, right now; however, I disagree with the last two sentences.

            (You write, there, at last: “Let’s not forget though that no empire, however powerful, lasts forever. Psychiatry will fall as well. I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime or afterwards, but it will.”)

            Psychiatry is *not* an empire; it is a belief system, akin to that of any major religion.

            See: http://beyondlabeling.posterous.com/tag/thomasszasz

            And, I believe that, for as long as there are human beings developing large societies (i.e., societies that are big enough to contain people who become ‘strangers’ to one another), there will *always* be a certain Institution (call it “Psychiatry” or “The Mental Health Sytem,” or what have you), which strives to replace traditional religions, with it’s own ‘rationales’ for insisting that it can supposedly predict and prevent ‘ill’ behaviors.

            That Institution shall be (A) prone to co-opting the Powers-of-State, and (B) dedicated to defining and enforcing supposedly ‘normal’ as opposed to ‘abnormal’ behavior.

            That Institution shall *always* be utterly *corruptible* at every level – as it is corrupt, at its core.

            Why so corruptible?

            The answer is plainly evident – and quite as you say…

            To become one of its leaders, one is, “so egocentric as to be convinced” in his/her own “power to enforce which behaviors are [‘normal’].”

            What can we do about this?

            At *best* (I believe), we can strive to create ‘safe zones’ (or, ‘pockets’) of relative freedom, from that Institution’s *inherently corruptible* nature.

            E.g., we can attempt to make the public school-system (here and there) relatively free of that Institution’s meddling…

            (That is just one example of a ‘safe zone’ – ideally, protected against that Institution.)

            And, we can do our best, to attempt to create a general consensus, amongst those who are, more or less, relatively *aware* of the inherently corruptible nature of that Institution – a general consensus, that: one particularly part of *every* human body – the Brain – must be considered, by law, utterly inviolable.

            No one (and, no Institution) should *ever* be granted the ‘right’ to tamper with anyone else’s brain, without *full* prior permission (i.e., by way of first receiving that person’s *un-coerced* and *fully-informed* consent).

            After all, the most *hubristic* leaders, within that highly corruptible Institution, will *always* be attempting to paint whatever emotions, thoughts and behavior they deem “abnormal,” as supposed effects, of some kind of ‘neurological’ problem.

            They will *always* be inclined to want to tamper with the supposedly ‘abnormal’ brains, of people whose emotions, thoughts and behaviors are deemed ‘out of control’ and ‘disordered’ and, perhaps, ‘ill’; and, as long as we have large societies of people, the tendency to have *many* people clamoring for such barbarity, as that, which amounts to tampering, willy nilly, with others’ brains, shall go on (I believe) – as, of course, many shall *willingly* choose such ‘treatments’ for themselves, as they’ll be drawn in, by various convincing promotions, promises, of the latest, wondrous, new kind of ‘relief’ – in the form of a ‘medication’ – or, maybe a bit of ‘Electroconvulsive Therapy’ (ECT) – or some new kind of psycho-surgery – which is supposed to end the nagging miseries, of persisting loneliness, ‘meaninglessness’ and/or a seemingly ‘unexplainable’ angst, that tends to arise when one awakens, in the morning and/or steps out of ones abode (to go to work or school or the marketplace). And, a large proportion of those *willing* receivers, of such ‘treatments’, shall *insist* they are benefiting immensely – as short-term effects may be helpful, to some, and the placebo effect is very powerful.

            That Institution will survive, as long as large societies survive – and shall be called “Psychiatry” for a very long time to come.

            Such is my view – which, of course, could be mistaken, in any number of ways…

            Respectfully,

            ~Jonah

          • P.S. – One last thing, on what keeps that Institution going, and going, and going, endlessly… is the *desire* of *families* to *control* the seemingly ‘disordered’ behaviors, of one or more of their own members.(How could I have left this last part out?!? I don’t know. But, it was a really *huge* omission.)

          • “is the *desire* of *families* to *control* the seemingly ‘disordered’ behaviors, of one or more of their own members”

            😀

            Attributed to George Patton: “God deliver us from our friends. We can handle the enemy”

            Very true!

            With respect to the safe zones, I know that we have a disagreement on this, but I think that the starting point in the US is much, much better than in other places. I am of the opinion that we will not get much further from where we are now unless we go to the next phase of targeted and public lawsuits against Keller, Nemeroff and the like. In other words, pretty much what CCHR does but at a larger scale and without any association whatsoever to Scientology or any other religion. Psychiatry can be stopped (or at least very weakened) one lawsuit at a time :D.

          • Jonah, I have yet to experience anyone being committed into an asylum without there being such paranoid alarm amongst the people who are doing the committing that the truth gets thrown out the window because they believe “something” needs to be done.

            This is only inherent in a system whose statistics don’t correlate with healing mental illness and whose methods cause what they say they are treating, which is a chemical imbalance.

            It’s like that sociological experiment. When someone is simply doing something a bit odd, or not being controlled by fear based societal mind control, then they are seen as the problem. Somebody is just doing something odd, or they aren’t intimidated by accepted societal norms, or they have been so hurt by negligence and abuse that’s overlooked in society that they don’t care anymore to follow these “norms. And bingo, if you get alarmed about their behavior you can avoid really looking at all of the arbitrary fear based agreements society makes to pretend it’s all working. And beyond these societal fashions, you have really corrupt behavior by people who can’t express how much their humanity has been repressed through symptoms of “mental illness,” anymore.

          • Sorry there was a grammatical mistake in the last paragraph…which I’ve corrected

            It’s like that sociological experiment. When someone is simply doing something a bit odd, or not being controlled by fear based societal mind control, then they are seen as the problem. Somebody is just doing something odd, or they aren’t intimidated by accepted societal norms, or they have been so hurt by negligence and abuse that’s overlooked in society that they don’t care anymore to follow these “norms. And bingo, if you get alarmed about their behavior you can avoid really looking at all of the arbitrary fear based agreements society makes to pretend it’s all working. And beyond these societal fashions, you have really corrupt behavior by people who can’t express through symptoms of “mental illness,” how much their humanity has been repressed.

    • Layla, what you call long windedness actually had some interesting tangents for me. Electricity for example, how you can actually (and this has been known for more than 50 years, I think) make an electrical generator that gets energy from the potential field in Quantum physics, and with simple magnets, copper wires and other materials actually produces 4 times more energy than the energy it takes from it’s own production to run on. People won’t believe it works and production has been suppressed for years, or they think there’s no explanation so wouldn’t believe it (same as miracles or Quantum Physics principles). Although it may appear we’re coming from two different sides of a debate; I’ve only been able to materialize my perspective beyond having to defend it at all, because it helped me to see my viewpoint.

      And it’s wonderful to have these ideologies that one could change one’s emotions chemically, but try a placebo. Something that has no side effects; that doesn’t interfere with any organic functions in the brain, that doesn’t create chemical dependency, where there’s no loss of life expectancy, where you aren’t told that the medications are treating a chemical imbalance while actually creating one. Try a placebo. Find out how much thought itself is emotions. Believe in Santa. Read books. People are so focused on finding pills for solutions, then when you give a placebo the effect of creating a dry mouth or another such side effect, people’s belief that it’s doing something increases and there’s more of the placebo effect. What’s really healing would be fiction, but this should stay as fiction. As art. I don’t think emotions are that tangible to the physical, because then they wouldn’t be e-motions. They are more creative than that; not the result of what’s there. They are maybe more the cause of what’s there than a result. Music brings this out, as do all the arts with their relationship with emotions which actually bring perspective to the whole human experience. This isn’t something you can get a pill for, I don’t think. Listen to music that awakens your emotions and you can gain perspective on the emotions inside you, the memories, the dreams… ALL the emotions. Or go to a museum, or a play, a movie, the ballet, go dance; make a painting yourself or a poem or….. You gain understanding rather than thinking your emotions are too much, or that you have to control them. You dare to experience the joy that’s there to experience all of life; and see that it makes all of it beautiful, you don’t have to try to control any of it. Somehow. I don’t believe that a society which would actually honor what the arts are (rather than being consumer oriented); I don’t think they would be having “mental illness.” And most of the great artists whose art have already nurtured the human soul for generations or more have been given some sort of diagnosis. That’s a different world, a different perspective; and it’s more real than any fear based society. And it’s not crazy, or it is crazy; but it’s not a disease.

      I have the same kind of “memories” that come into my mind and make me shutter. It’s quite difficult to actually process how much, what kind of a nodule of fear gets compacted into these reactions to another saying you’re crazy. And when I simply take a few moment to calm down and not over-react, not wager with the fear based mind control of loss (don’t do blah blah blah because then they’ll think you’re crazy, or Oh CRIPES they’ll all think that’s crazy, WHY didn’t I realize that) and why I should care at all, as if there’s some kind of loss, except that I lose having to believe that a self defeating system is my salvation. And when I take a perspective on what trauma caused my behavior I realize that I’m breaking the cycle of trauma, even though experiencing it for what it is, that it’s an illusion, is deemed crazy.

    • Layla, I was still thinking about what you described as starting to contact on the inside with what happened when committed. How you shudder and then block it off. And when you talk about it you say it’s like you’re talking about a scene in a movie that happened to someone else.

      I’m glad you brought it up because I have the same sort of shuddering and then emotional convulsions. That helped me to think about and process it. This isn’t because I was institutionalized (which I haven’t been this incarnation) but because of the stress of trying to deal with people’s idea of what sanity is. Their very responses. To me it’s like time is shattered. That any idea of what it was supposed to lead to is shattered. The whole linear matrix. The whole belief system as to how things work. So I guess it’s not a bad idea to simply let go of it; any idea that there is any sense to it according to how I’m trying to define how it should work in connection with my belief system. And time isn’t linear, it does come apart so that the drama can unfold itself (like art, like a movie). So that we’re connected with it rather than disconnected. It’s just I suspend my whole belief system, otherwise I go crazy trying to make sense out of it. All sides of it. The injustice, how it was supposed to work, what happiness would have been or is, what should have been how things work. I guess it’s a good idea to just let go of it, and then it can come together without me getting in the way trying to make sense out of it. Then it’s crazy and it’s OK….

    • OK, I’m still thinking about having flashbacks of being institutionalized, or simply what it feels like to have people make you think you’re crazy, or to have to worry about what they think at all.

      Someone told me, when she studied sociology, she had an assignment where in they had been given permission to go up and down an elevator the whole day in a mall so that they could study the behavior of other people. The mall knew it was an experiment in sociology, and if people complained about it then the security had been instructed to get into the elevator as if they were going to do something about it, but then simply get off at the next floor and walk back. Her stories about people’s behaviors was quite funny; but it accented how upset people get about someone just doing something out of line, a bit unusual: something that’s really of no concern and doesn’t interfere with anything, although it’s targeted to be seen as out of line. There weren’t enough of them to stop anyone else from getting in the elevator etc..Laughing at those people’s response is how one could let go of how disturbing people’s responses really are.

      I was thinking about this today, and would like to do the same kind of experiment. I’ve had this so often in my life that when “psychotic,” and completely non-violent, just a bit odd; it’s already a whole exercise in sociology when you remember people’s reactions. When “psychotic,” I’m pretty much numb to whether I should care or not about certain things. The problem often comes when I’m back to “normal,” because then I start judging people’s responses (which often were quite abusive in their hostility to really petty things or nothing, and based on fear based programming rather than reality based). And it can cause a lot of heart break. When “normal” I really had to learn to forgive, to not invest in judgment, and to not believe I have to get stressed out about it to make change. Because when not getting stressed out my mind does become balanced and finds the peace to detach from it; to simply be myself, and then discover that this is the best way to make change.

      It does seem like there’s no way out and the only way to survive would be to adapt to this fear based (rather than reality based) system that’s less reality based then your “psychosis,” but that in the end really isn’t the case. Evolution has more perspective… And when you let go of thinking you need to adapt to what you’ve been intimidated to think is necessary, probably since before you can consciously remember: when you stop thinking this fear based idea that you need to be part of a fear based system or you can’t survive, then you actually start to understand the “psychosis.” It doesn’t happen in a jiffy, remote control, press the button, turn the key, pop a pill. But it does happen. And because it’s so subtle, the small awakenings have more connections and are more linked from just one moment (from any moment) than all the stuff that seems to fix it “just like that…”

      • \\…It does seem like there’s no way out and the only way to survive would be to adapt to this fear based (rather than reality based) system that’s less reality based then your “psychosis,” but that in the end really isn’t the case. Evolution has more perspective… And when you let go of thinking you need to adapt to what you’ve been intimidated to think is necessary, probably since before you can consciously remember: when you stop thinking this fear based idea that you need to be part of a fear based system or you can’t survive, then you actually start to understand the “psychosis.”…//

        Nijinsky,

        Do I dare use this field, to reply to a comment, to another person (not me)?

        There is the ‘Post Comment’ button, staring at me – as well as “CANCEL REPLY” – and the choice is mine.

        With countless, unwritten ‘social’ rules, in every society, in large societies, there will be numerous people whose roots are in disparate cultures.

        The Internet brings people from literally countless cultures ‘together’ (i.e., we all ‘meet’ in one ‘virtual’ place, on the Net).

        Am I committing a form of sacrilege, by using the ‘Reply’ button, to comment upon something that is addressed to another person, on this site?

        There is a link (a sentence, in blue print) which appears barely an inch beneath the field I’m currently typing in; it reads, “Please click here to review our full posting policy.”

        If I push that link, will I be told I am doing something wrong each time I reply to a comment, in field, that’s been created for someone else?

        No, it won’t tell me that…

        But, I feel guilty as I knowingly type my reply, right now, in a field, that was created for someone else (not me). I’ve granted myself ‘permission’ to do this; though, not even two full hours have passed, since you posted; Layla should be given time to reply; yet, she has not replied to your comments, above – the first of which is a couple of days old.

        Has she been given enough time?

        I feel maybe she should be given more time…

        And, I already blew it once, on this page, using the ‘Reply’ button to a particularly poignant comment…

        As you can see, I did that, up above, on this page.

        It was entirely inadvertent – an unconscious error (on March 2, 2013 at 8:52 am). It was after I hit the ‘Post Comment’ button, that I became aware I had made that mistake. My comment posted, not at the bottom of the page (as I’d intended) – but under a really special comment, addressed to Layla.

        Without realizing, I’d pushed the “Reply” button under that beautiful comment, that was addressed to another – and used the field for my own purposes.

        Some small part of me is still beating myself up for that; and, yet, what’s done is done…

        Now, here I am, *deliberately* writing in the ‘Reply’ field, of yet another beautiful comment, that’s addressed to someone (not me) – and, yet again, it’s a comment addressed, in fact, to Layla.

        I think: a considerable amount of time has passed… more than two full days, after your two comments above this most recent one, of yours; and, I’m wanting to respond to your words.

        Should I copy and paste my words (these words, which I’m currently typing) into a new field, that will post, to one of your earlier comments, that’s addressed to Layla; or, should I post at the bottom of the page? I would do that – except, I think: Seth’s comment (on March 2, 2013 at 7:49 am) – which is currently the last comment on this page – is quite beautiful – and important.

        I do not wish to make any comment of mine the last comment, on this page – when there is such an important notice already residing there…

        These are the sorts of dilemmas, that, not infrequently, plague me… as I struggle to know the ‘right’ use of space (and time), in this life.

        It is now just after 3:00 in the morning. The TV is on – a music channel. (Here is what’s currently playing: Tim Glemser, “The Amber Field” – Painted Echoes, 2011.)

        Music is playing – but only because, just a few moments ago, I switched to this channel, from a sports channel – which was fine for me, until I realize: It was making my dogs restless.

        They are now very calm – totally silent, in fact, as a ‘heavenly’ sort of sound (or, ‘ethereal’) plays; it is a piece by Steven Halpern… (“Keynote D: Orange” – Spectrum Suite, 1975).

        (And, now, Jill Haley – “Ceruliean Sky” – Zion And Bryce Canyon Soundscapes, 2012.)

        My dogs are out – totally gone.

        Is music a placebo?

        No way.

        However, I absolutely love what you’re saying in that comment, to Layla (above, on March 2, 2013 at 1:57 am).

        Part of me, thus, strongly wishes to *avoid* ‘correcting’ you – because, really you offer so much Truth – in your recommendations.

        You explain, “And it’s wonderful to have these ideologies that one could change one’s emotions chemically, but try a placebo. Something that has no side effects; that doesn’t interfere with any organic functions in the brain, that doesn’t create chemical dependency, where there’s no loss of life expectancy, where you aren’t told that the medications are treating a chemical imbalance while actually creating one. Try a placebo. Find out how much thought itself is emotions. Believe in Santa. Read books. People are so focused on finding pills for solutions, then when you give a placebo the effect of creating a dry mouth or another such side effect, people’s belief that it’s doing something increases and there’s more of the placebo effect…”

        To one extent or another, there is always a placebo effect, at work, when someone ‘believes in’ the ‘remedy’ s/he’s utilizing, to quell a supposed ‘disorder’ (of any kind).

        But, there’s much more than placebo effect, at work, in the ‘medicine’ of healing sounds – and healing stories (‘mythology’ – the story of Santa, etc.).

        And, believe me, I’m being entirely sincere, when I say: I deeply believe in the healing power, of good music (and good mythology).

        However, there is *much* more (so much more) than mere ‘placebo effect’ going on, when addled nerves (and troubled minds) are soothed and healed by music; indeed, there’s a considerable amount of scientifically established data) to establish the *healing* properties (the ‘medicinal’ value) of good music; this is very much more than placebo effect!

        See: http://www.musictherapy.org/

        Respectfully,

        ~Jonah

        P.S. – I know you saw this comment (at the following link):

        https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/02/components-for-a-good-neuroleptic-withdrawal-program/#comment-20720

        I know you saw it because you referred to it, in a comment of your own, on that same page. Great comment, I feel…

        Says Subvet416 on February 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm:

        “After I stopped taking any of the Haldol I did not sleep for two weeks. I went to bed at my usual time and stayed quiet until morning, meditating and listening to a classical music station with headphones. I felt good, I knew I was closing the door on a very unpleasant chapter in my life, and finally my normal sleep cycle returned.”

        • P.P.S. – To anyone who maybe on Haldol or knows someone on Haldol, hopefully, you’ll understand: To cease taking neuroleptics (e.g., Haldol) must be done with care; one should *taper* of such ‘meds’ gradually; follow that link I’ve offered, directly above, you’ll see discussion of tapering.

          Meanwhile, on this page, above (on March 2, 2013 at 8:52 am), I mentioned that I once flushed ‘meds’ down the toilet – and felt fine afterward; I had tapered off those ‘meds’ before throwing the last of them, down the toilet; I had tapered rather quickly, but, at that particular point (to my recollection), I was not being prescribed *neuroleptics*; in any event, no one should think I’m recommending going cold turkey. I do NOT recommend it.

        • Jonah, I appreciate your saying that music is more than a placebo. I wasn’t really saying that it was the same.

          the link I shared http://www.youtube.com/oelte that’s actually me playing the piano, and most of the music there are my own compositions. That’s how I survived…..

          I talk about that here, a post from facebook I’m sharing, consequently:

          “It’s not fun to look at the trauma. I was doing that in bed before I got up just now. And I notice I had been neglecting it. So I just went over what I know effected me from my youth. For years I couldn’t do this without actually getting really upset, feeling like my head was being compressed in a vice, just being really angry. And I’d spend hours in that state, worried about whether I would sleep, whether I’d be exhausted the next day. Not knowing what to do with my anger. And the saddest part is that’s actually a mind control game of the people trying to control you. The ones that abused you. It’s easy to get someone mad. But somehow, I’ve learned to not invest in the feeling of anger, attack, hatred, condemnation which used to compress my mind making me feel I had to explode or I’d be compressed into something like these little squares they turn cars into for scrap metal when they compress them to be more transportable. I exploded enough to find out that didn’t really help. And so now I let go, now that I can bless the people that abused me and I’m really letting go of guilt inside myself. That if I had ever done anything like they did I would deserve my anger, when in reality, being them, I would have a neglected story as well that involved trauma, abuse, neglect etc.. They say in near death experiences that you actually, without a body, in a way “become” the other person when you touch in with them beyond the ego. Before I even consciously started dealing with these issues, and just felt neglected. Just one of those crazy people on disability that of course felt abandoned, misunderstood… Was used for social ridicule. It’s interesting someone mentioned how in studying sociology, one of their exercises was to go up and down an elevator the whole day (they had gotten permission from the mall, and the security was told if someone complained to just get in the elevator as if they were going to do something and then get off the next floor). So, they really saw how people respond about something as unimportant as someone going up and down an elevator the whole day. I’m sure you’d get the same thing if you stood on a corner babbling and preaching, or went to a coffee house and just talked to yourself, or went to a church and behaved strangely. I’ve had many “psychotic” episodes which actually entail exactly such a sociological experiment. And before I even could consciously relate to what effected me in my youth; I had periods when I felt so abandoned so ready to splinter, to fragment into very hurt little pieces, to feel like a leaf that would crumble when someone just stepped on it, not knowing it had once been alive. And fragment, and turn into a ghost of what it is to be human, an angry phantom and explode and become reactive. But I was fortunate that, when this came upon me; I had already acquired a love for music, knew it’s worth, and couldn’t abandon it. I would go to the computer program for composing I have, and with my electronic midi keyboard start composing. And then this dead leaf would come to life, I wouldn’t have to think about what I was doing at all anymore. I could just respond to what was happening uninhibitedly and peacefully…..”

      • Nijinksy,

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts — I just read through them all, and I’d really like to reply properly. I won’t be able to do that for a few days, though, due to a busy schedule this week — noticed Jonah’s musings on whether or not I needed more time, so wanted to say yes! I’m finding your comments thought-provoking and just waiting until I have more than 2 mins to share some of my thoughts about what you’ve said.

        Again, thank you for sharing your reflections.

        Best wishes,

        Layla

          • 🙂

            Admittedly, I’m somewhat relieved to think I didn’t cause a problem by adding my thoughts. And, yes, music has so much more than placebo effect, to offer… But, of course, it must be *quality* music – and the ‘right’ music for the circumstance; selection is key. There’s such an endless variety of music, to choose from; for anyone with a decent Internet connection, the possibilities are endless.

            Youtube alone may suffice to provide every listening need (I feel) – if one ‘only’ has a good Net connection. But: what choice of music one makes, in any given instance, is vitally important.

            When one is in need of healing, the ‘right’ music is necessary. Music with lyrics can make or break the goal of healing. That’s a highly subjective choice, which I would compare to ones choice, of a vacation destination. (Ones vacation could prove to be incredibly healing – or not; all depends upon where one goes.)

            Nijinsky left a great *classical* music Youtube channel recommendation (nearly 100 uploaded videos, all solo piano), that was in a comment, under Daniel Mackler’s recent blog post (“Components for A Good Neuroleptic Withdrawal Program”):

            http://www.youtube.com/oelte

            In that comment, of Nijinsky’s (February 28, 2013 at 9:42 pm), he well-explains: “…music has always been there for people’s emotional healing, before anyone even invented, drugs, psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy etc….”

  30. I had intended to check back in before. I read about half of the debate with Layla. Somewhere I picked up that she was going into the field as a psychologist or psychiatrist. I wanted to make a point which judging from what I read had not been made. My impression was that it had never occurred to Layla. She may never return here but in case anyone talks to her they might mention it. It is the theme of my new book The Spiritual Gift of Madness. R D Laing popularized the position in the 1960s. That is, what is considered the most dreadful mental illness of the modern age -–and BTW for most of the psychoanalytic 20th century most professionals did not view its etiology as biological but psychological – is actually a positive process, a process that other pre-modern societies attempted deliberately to induce (eg vision quest). Both Laing and John Weir Perry contended that the suffering seemingly caused by schizophrenia is largely caused by the way it is treated by the “mind-police,” as Laing called them. That the drugs, isolation and the dread is what transforms the process undergone by a very vulnerable person into a nightmare. Layla’s critics poignantly described this “rape” of the soul. I want to stress the positive potential of this process of madness.

    There are about a dozen well known authors who expressed this view of madness in the 20th century including Anton Boisen who more convincingly than anyone I have read pointed out the parallels between the breakdown/breakthroughs of “religious geniuses” such as Jesus, St Paul, George Fox and others, and ordinary hospitalized schizophrenics. Laing regarded normal consciousness as insane––as out of touch with the reality of the inner world, and thus if anything merited the label of serious pathology it was the consciousness of the normal man/woman. I think I took Laing’s main ideas in The Politics of Experience ideas to their logical conclusion–from which he turned back after 1967: that the schizophrenic experience if encouraged and nurtured could lead to the birth of a messianic sensibility, and that those with this sensibility could be catalysts of a new Great Awakening, a spiritual revitalization. As we stand today on the verge of an ecological Armageddon a messianic sensibility is I argue our only hope for saving the species and enabling it to realize our highest and greatest possibilities.

    This was I think the embryonic intuition upon which The Icarus Project was originally based, as I argued in my own book The Spiritual Gift of Madness. And thus I regard the leaders of TIP with ambivalence –with gratitude for their intuition and courage expressed in TIPs Mission Statement and with disappointment for their repudiation of the mad gift perspective in the ensuing years.

    It is my argument that the redemption of humanity rests upon the willingness to view madness, despite its frightening aspects, as a positive good, and to nurture it so that the mad can be come the catalysts of messianic change who can lead normal people into the promised land before we plunge over the edge of the abysss upon we are are so precariously perched.

    Seth Farber, Ph.D.
    http://www.sethHfarber.com

    • “Both Laing and John Weir Perry contended that the suffering seemingly caused by schizophrenia is largely caused by the way it is treated by the “mind-police,” as Laing called them.”

      Exactly. And it doesn’t start with how extreme states, or the people who experience them, are treated, but already with how these states are commonly perceived and defined — namely as an illness, something that shouldn’t be — in our society. Much of the fear I myself initially experienced during altered states wasn’t caused by the altered states themselves, but by the idea that is our society’s that I shouldn’t be having the experience, that it was a sign of something being profoundly wrong with me. Once I’d come to the conclusion — after reading Laing among other things — that nothing was wrong with me, which enabled me to say “yes” to the experience, even the fear wasn’t frightening me anymore. Sadly, the vast majority of people I meet in my work were indoctrinated to fear their experience — themselves — more than death. Their suffering is indeed immeasurable, and only endurable while under the constant influence of more or less heavy sedation.

      • Joseph Campbell offered a concurring view, when he explained:

        Dr. Perry and Mr. Murphy introduced me to a paper on “Shamans and Acute Schizophrenia,” by Dr. Julian Silverman of the National Institute of Mental Health, which had appeared in 1967 in the American Anthropologist, and there again I found something of the greatest interest and of immediate relevance to my studies and thinking. In my own writings I had already pointed out that among primitive hunting peoples it is largely from the psychological experiences of shamans that the mythic imagery and rituals of their ceremonial life derive. The shaman is a person (either male or female) who in early adolescence underwent a severe psychological crisis, such as today would be called a psychosis. Normally the child’s apprehensive family sends for an elder shaman to bring the youngster out of it, and by appropriate measures, songs, and exercises, this experienced practitioner succeeds. As Dr. Silverman remarks and demonstrates in his paper, “In primitive cultures in which such a unique life crisis resolution is tolerated, the abnormal experience (shamanism) is typically beneficial to the individual, cognitively and affectively; he is regarded as one with expanded consciousness.” Whereas, on the contrary, in such a rationally ordered culture as our own-or, to phrase the proposition again in Dr. Silverman’s words, “in a culture that does not provide referential guides for comprehending this kind of crisis experience, the individual (schizophrenic) typically undergoes an intensification of his suffering over and above his original anxieties.”

        (Excerpted from Myths to Live By, Penguin Books, copyright Joseph Campbell, 1972, pages 203-204.)

        http://www.mindspring.com/~berks-healing/campbell-schiz.pdf

  31. Jonah,

    Thanks for the Campbell reference. I think it’s about the best thing he ever wrote.

    You might be interested to know that many years ago, I escaped the psychiatric juggernaut solely because I happened to have read Jung’s “Answer to Job” and Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces.”

    When faced with a potential psychosis at the age of 27, I managed to interpret it as Jung’s prelude to individuation and as Campbell’s hero’s journey.

    I found out from a psychiatrist that I really belonged in a looney bin and wasn’t supposed to do this, but I fled his office in alarm and did it anyway. And never regretted it, in spite of all the silent agony it cost me. At least my life was never thrown off course with a stigmatizing diagnosis and degrading mental hospital rituals.

    So I think Laura is right – the problem isn’t “mental illness,” it’s the cult of psychiatry and the hypnotic spell it casts on its victims.

    If you’d like to know more about my experience, see

    http://tinyurl.com/nc88zf

    Best,
    Mary Newton

    • Mary,

      I, too, was familiar with Jung’s work, by that point, at which I had my ‘breakdown/breakthrough’; and, that basic knowledge was a life-saver; surely, I would have suffered a far *worse* fate, at that point, had I not known of Jung’s work.

      But, no one warned me against ‘acting crazy’ – such as you were (quite fortunately) warned, by your old high school friend, the psychiatrist.

      Such a warning would have done me great good.

      In my family, I had been the ‘good kid’ – the “easy kid” (my mom always called me) – literally *never* ‘acting out’ (i.e., rebelling against my parents) as my siblings often did.

      Beginning a few years prior to that ‘breakdown/breakthrough’ (personal/interpersonal crisis) of mine, I’d become very intrigued by Jung’s work – *and* also, by the prospect of ‘acting crazy’ – and that had much (and, perhaps, everything) to do with why I wound up choosing to act out, as I did, at age 21.5 – throwing plates, at my parents’ garage door…

      That *choice* of mine (which was essentially a ‘delayed’ rebellion) was the reflection of a *conscious* decision, ultimately; I was deciding, at last, to deliberately ‘act crazy’ – in a way that would disrupt the ‘same old, same old’ patterns of life, in my parents’ home (where I’d grown up and where I’d returned to, after my having taken a break from college, to travel, alone, across country).

      I did sense, in advance, that there was a significant risk in what I was choosing to do, that way – knew I could be viewed as ‘crazy’; however, it was my feeling, then, that, such was was the ‘right’ time, to go ahead and take that risk.

      By the way, here’s a link to a very good National Geographic article, by David Dobbs, titled, “Teenage Brains”:

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text

      It’s about the inherent, risk-taking nature, of teens.

      (And, note: I was 21.5 – so, technically, not a teenager, when I decided to take that risk, smashing those dishes…; but, of course, to be just one-and-a-half- years past ones teens is hardly being free of ones teenage tendencies.)

      In retrospect, it’s perfectly clear, to me, that I had no idea (not even a clue) as to the *full* implications, of what could become, of taking such a risk; I was being naive…

      So, subsequently, I did learn a great deal (about human nature – and about the incredibly corrupt nature of Psychiatry); as a result of taking that risk – and then allowing myself to be pressured in an Emergency Room, to be ‘assessed’ by a psychiatrist (and, indeed, it was the resident who took over for him, who finally got me to say “Yes” to a question designed to make me appear as though suicidal), my life would be unalterably driven to realizing just how deeply inhumane – and dishonest – are the machinations of the ‘mental health’ system, due to Psychiatry’s dominance of it.

      Though my family meant well, the effects of pressuring me into the ‘care’ of Psychiatry were extremely punishing.

      I can view those experiences of Psychiatry, as learning experiences…

      But, no amount of learning can make up for all the *traumatizing* and *stigmatizing* and *isolating* effects created in the course of such an education.

      Psychiatry offered me nothing but an education in what systematized corruption looks like; it affected me poorly – and only poorly; ‘acting crazy’ and, then, agreeing to be seen by a psychiatrist formed (together) one *huge* mistake (purely regrettable) – the full extent of which, is negative, beyond words (indescribable).

      Naturally, I am grateful to have ‘escaped’ Psychiatry’s grip – and grateful that Psychiatry didn’t kill me – as it has killed many…

      Thank you very much for the link to your own story; I highly recommend it to MIA readers…

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

  32. I was one of those innocent people who thought that psychiatrists actually sat down and listened to you. Boy did I ever get a taste of reality when I experienced my first appointment with a psychiatrist.

    My mother died the year before and I was struggling to deal with the loss of the most significant person in my life. In order to be able to continue receiving talk therapy I had to get a diagnosis/label from a psychiatrist. The day before my appointment with the quack I received news that my sister had been murdered in New York City. I received the news exactly one year to the day of my mother’s funeral and burial. I was not in a very good place when I walked into the guy’s office. The man looked at me once during the entire ten minutes I was in his office. He kept his head down and scribbled on his little paper pad, occasionally reading something from what I suspect was notes from my earlier therapy sessions. He never asked me anything about myself, he didn’t ask any questions at all. Right before he was finished he asked me how I was doing, without ever looking up. I told him I wasn’t doing very well. He asked why, without looking up. I told him that my sister had been murdered and I thought that my world was coming down around my head. He looked up at me with this angry look on his face and replied, “That’s stupid!” I wanted to punch him out then and there but instead got up and walked out of his office. I told my therapist what had happened and how angry I was. He said not to say anything and not to make any complaints! Welcome to the world of “mental health treatment(torment)!” Out of the four psychiatrists who worked on my case in two different hospitals, and all of the ones that I work alongside with in the state hospital where I’m employed, only one out of the entire bunch is worth his salt and the money he’s paid for treatment and that’s because he takes his time and actually listens to his patients. He values their story and believes what they tell him. As a hospital chaplain I’ve dealt with a lot of arrogant and ignorant doctors, but the psychiatrists take the cake for being the worst of any of them. Laura is absolutely correct in what she writes about them and about the system that they perpetuate.

    • Stephen,

      Looks like you had a very ugly and shocking experience with an unusually insensitive psychiatrist. I’m glad you had the good sense and composure to walk out of his office. If I were in your shoes, I might have just fallen apart and got myself a really damaging diagnosis from the guy.

      But tell me this — how is it you could work in a state hospital, especially as a chaplain, and be so surprised when you were treated like you were when you came before a psychiatrist as a patient? Had you never before seen or heard about this kind of treatment meted out to patients by psychiatrists?

      Just curious.

      Mary Newton

      • While I cannot and do not wish to speak for Stephen or anyone else, I have come across this myself. At least once a month I come across someone who cannot understand why THEY are being treated this way, but they always say “I understand why the system is there, for those crazy people who are at risk to themselves or others, but I’m not one of them”.

        People believe totally that the system is there to protect them from these crazy people. They believe that psychiatrists are nice and caring people and any force is done as a last resort and only when absolutely neccessary for the safety of someone. They also believe that those who recieve the force deserve it. I did for a long time and I am now incredibly ashamed of it. But I also know it was indoctrinated into me. Like I believed that if I was a complaint patient and communicated with them about what I was thinking and feeling they could work with me to make me better. I tried for YEARS to be a good patient. It didn’t work. Eventuall I had to face reality. And reality as I see it today is that even if someone is so acutely ill as to be voilent and out of control, does that mean that voilence is the right way to respond to it. Treat people with respect and they will have a much better chance of responding with respect back again. Treat people how you wish to be treated. Something I gained from Daniel Macklers Healing Homes DVD when a therapist said they largely just sit with people who are acutely psychotic and listen to anything they say, no questioning, no telling them they are crazy, just being there. Reason they gave: “I think that if I was in that state that is how I would want to be treated”. If I was in that state I would not want to be manhandled to the floor, drugged and locked in a concrete cell, chained to bed in my own urine and feaces, sort of ironcial that anyone can seriously believe that is being nice and theraputic to someone!! Mass murders are allowed to live in better conditions!!!

        Put simply I believed, I think in part because I needed to believe that these people were recievnig medical treatments in the most theraputic way possible with the least amount of force, and that everything was done with their best interests at heart. It took a great deal of sole searching to really know that was not the case, and to really believe just how harmful and toxic the system was. I wanted to believe that they could help me, as much as I wanted to believe that these people deserved to be treated this way. Of course I was also very much lead to believe that their verbal recollections of their experiences are largely part of their psychosis and not real. I now know oherwise. If anything they are only tell half the story as they are so numbed by the drugs and ECT that they can barely tell the truth.

        I now wonder what if anything has changed in psychiatry over the decades. We said that these people needed to be chained and kept in dungens for their own and others safety. Is what we do now really any different? We said that any treatments they described as torturess, were for normal people, but not for those with diseased brains or blood plasma, do we not do the same now. Restricting the right of psychiatrists to do these things is deying people access to evidenced based medical treatments that only they can understand. Do we not do the same now. Any sane person would consent to all and any of these treatments, including spinning chairs, burning, drowning therapy, etc. and the same is said today. Are the side of these drugs really any less toxic and the behavioural interventions used really any less abusive, than much of what was done in the past. Anesethics and muscle relaxants in ECT way well have made it less traumatic at the time of the treatment, but it has also resulted in them using more electricity and subsequently causing more long term and permanent damage to the brain? Is it really any better to do that, and is that not traumatising in and of itself.

        Facing reality about the truth of the mental health system, which really is a cult is an incredibly difficult thing and it still amazes me that Whitaker as an outsider was able to do so. It also never amazes me that so many in it and not able to do so. But that is the power or cults. You believe what you have to, to survive. And who could believe that a whole medical profession, legalised by so called civil and human rights based societies could legally endorse and encourage such practises. How is it that students studying in these professions are not only able to watch people being treated this way, but to actually treat people that way themselves. I have seen some of the most compassionate and supportive medical nurses, enter psychiatry and become mean and vindictive within a matter of months, believing that everything they now did was theraputically necessary and good for people!! One cannot enter another ward in a hospital they work in and see people being treated this way and not try and find a reason for it. The reason they are given from people they respect is that it is theraputic and they need it. It is way too hard to believe otherwise, so they don’t. The same is true for anyone who starts out as a complaint patient. Much easier to blame the patients and there treatment resistent brain diseases than to acknowledge that what we do is harmful. And of course why would a medical and nursing profession endorse such practises, along with legal systems, etc. They need to believ and so they do.

  33. “Fear is Not a Mental Disorder”
    Excellent post. You might be very interested in a blogpost and essay on my site: http://www.PackLeaderPsychology.com. Quite simply, my book Pack Leader Psychology is based on this concept: The majority of “mental disorders” that people experience are due to the primal fear response. Fear is not a disorder, but a normal, adaptive human reaction.
    I believe that the stigmatizing and medicalization of “mental illness” that you experienced stems from the biomedical model and the DSM. I am a practicing clinical psychologist who for years has believed that the DSM is inaccurate and misleading in fundamental ways and could even be considered harmful to clients. The mythology of the DSM has for decades hindered therapeutic treatment of clients, and generally complicated what are very simple, understandable concepts that underlie human behavior.
    My essay takes a broad, philosophical look at concerns about the DSM. I believe, as many do, that the time is right to completely re-conceptualize diagnostic strategies from the ground up, with the goal of developing a replacement for the DSM.
    I present a powerful and concise theoretical framework to use when diagnosing human behavioral and emotional distresses. This new paradigm is explained in depth in my book Pack Leader Psychology. This paradigm offers numerous benefits not found in the DSM, corrects many of the theoretical errors in the DSM, and provides an effective diagnostic and therapeutic solution. And it does so in far less than the 943 pages of the DSM-IV-TR.
    Pack Leader Psychology is based on indisputable facts, not the unscientific, confusing, and complex “system” of “diagnostics” of the DSM. Most important, the Pack Leader Psychology model brings numerous benefits to clients, whom we in the psychology profession are ethically bound to protect and help. Where the DSM pathologizes human behaviors as illnesses and disorders, Pack Leader Psychology offers an innovative paradigm that explains these behaviors as normal, natural responses to perceived or real threats and fears. Pack Leader Psychology is a more positive, optimistic, and straightforward framework that strips away harmful, judgmental labels and de-stigmatizes “mental illness” in a profound and fundamental way.
    I’d appreciate any feedback on my essay. Thanks!

    • Primal Fear Response is not an indisputable fact. If it was, it would be accepted by all. It is YOUR belief, and nothing else, and does as much harm to people as psychaitry does. Pscyhologists are great at making out that they are the good guys, because they do not dish out toxic medications. My experience and that of most people I know was the psychologists were the most evil and hurtful group. You name the therapy I have experienced it. At least the drugs psychiatrists prescribed, just numbed me to oblivion, they could not cause irrepreable psychological damage. My body can and is recovering from the brain damaging touture of the drugs dished out to me as medications. But I for one do not believe I will ever recover from the decades of torture dished out to me by psychologists, in any of their flash theories. Everyone of them, claimed that the therapies I had used in the past were harmful, but there’s was good and would cure me. You name it I experienced it, and dispute your wish to claim they are helpful for everyone, fact is they are not.

      Your pet theory MIGHT help SOME people, but to claim as you do that you can cure every single bit of emotional distress in a matter of weeks, with your pet therapy, shows just how niave you are. Humans are complex are we are allowed to be complex. Some of us are quite happy being complex and quite happy having periods of sadness. But of course you have money to make on telling people that feeling sad ever is bad and you can CURE us in a few short weeks. Someone dies, don’t worry, you can cure them. Someone diagnosed with incurrable cancer, don’t worry you can cure them. Someone raped and tortured to ways you cannot even comprehend, don’t worry you can cure them. Someone has their whole family murdered in front of them, don’t worry you can cure tham. And you can do so in a matter of weeks and with the exact same treatment for all of them. But of course it is my primal fear that causes me not to believe what you say. I’ll live quite happily with my primal fear and face reality about lifes difficulties.