Sometimes I get so sick of the lies of biological psychiatry that I must speak out. At these moments I find silence to be a kind of emotional death: a death of my spirit, a death of my critical faculties, a death of my courage. I speak out because I am alive and I wish to align with life. I speak out to express my lack of indifference. I love the statement, “the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” I am not full of indifference. I am full of difference, proudly so. That is what makes my existence unique. That is also what naturally pits me against biological psychiatry, a group that would love to hook its dirty claws into me. I rail against biological psychiatry, yet cannot help but find it curious that I, who spent four years in college studying biology, know that biology is the study of life. What did I miss?
When I self-reflect, I see that I rail against biological psychiatry because it is no more a science than is Scientology. My years studying and expressing myself through the scientific method helped me dismantle that seeming conundrum easily enough. Biological psychiatry is actually an art: the art of doubletalk masquerading as healing. And in fact, its practitioners are brilliant at it.
Here, I’ll explain it to you. When you hear many of the things said by biological psychiatry you have to remember that they mean the opposite. For instance, when they talk about ‘biological psychiatry,’ they really mean ‘nonbiological psychiatry.’ They’re not talking about helping people get their lives back in order; they’re talking about killing them — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes physically, sometimes psychically—with nonbiological agents such as chemicals and electricity and force.
They’re not talking about respecting people, helping them make sense of their pain and confusion, listening to them, witnessing their traumas, being vulnerable with them, challenging them emotionally, relating to them. Yes, biological psychiatry is smart enough to give these things lip service publicly and of course to put a spotlight on the people who say the chemicals and electricity and force saved their lives, because lip service and promotion of the lucky few who thrived in spite of not being offered better, cheaper, less intrusive, more empowering alternatives are good artistic flourishes that have a synergistic effect on doubletalk. And when the consultation room door closes and you’re all alone with them, they will double the intensity of their doubletalk, as per their professional privilege.
Then they will say such things as: “You have a chemical problem in your brain.”
And: “It is called schizophrenia.”
And: “You are a very ill person.”
And: “You need this medication.”
And: “You will need to take it for the rest of your life.”
And: “It is like insulin for diabetes.”
And: “All our medical insights are based on rigorous scientific study.”
And: “There is no cure for your problem, but our medication can help.”
And: “If our medication does not help we have other safe, effective treatments, like ECT.”
And, gently: “But let’s not jump the gun. First let us try our medications in combination.”
Of course, all of these statements are lies. When it comes to telling the truth they are good at going silent.
For instance, they will not say this: “We know it’s really hard and even dangerous for a lot of people to get off our drugs, especially after they’ve been on them a while—sometimes a very short while.”
Nor this: “We know that although tons of people stop taking these drugs almost immediately because they feel horrible on them, we’re willing to take this risk with you.”
Nor this: “A lot of credible research from within our own ranks has pointed out that this stuff really is poisonous. If you eat it, and keep eating it, not only are you less likely to work through your problems and come out the other side but you are likely to live 25 years less than if you don’t eat it — and are likely to get all sorts of nasty side effects, including brain shrinkage, along the way.”
Nor this: “And, by the way, when you do get troubling side effects we’ll give you more pills. That’s part of how our little cycle of fun works. That’s part of how you become a mental patient — and stay one.”
But all of this you will find out later, though the logic you will use to figure it out will not be provided by them. Not only are they not actually oriented toward the biological, they’re not oriented toward the logical either. Logic scares them. It undermines them. It disproves the hypotheses they peddle as truth. And that annoys them.
Instead of using logic, they will say, aloud, things such as this: “Try them.”
And: “Don’t worry if your health insurance covers them or not—here are some samples.”
Yet if you resist, they might also add: “And if you don’t want to try them that’s okay, because we can, if we really want to, force you to take them — by injection.”
And they might add this too, especially if you’re vulnerable, poor, and a minority: “But it takes a lot of resources and money to keep you locked up in the hospital, so we can always let you go free and just have you brought back to us every month by the police, if you refuse to come on your own, for your mandatory monthly antipsychotic injections. Yes, we have a program for that. It’s called ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment,’ and we can enroll you in it whether you like it or not.”
But what they won’t say is this: “The people receiving this ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ not infrequently call it ‘torture.’”
Nor this: “That is why we don’t listen to those people. They annoy us.”
But they will say this: “Those people clearly don’t know what’s good for them.”
And then they will just look at you silently, with a kind smile, and transmit to you this message psychically: “We have a lot of power — you don’t.”
And this too: “The lawyers and the judges and the laws and most of the politicians are on our side.”
And this: “You have no rights because we took them away.”
And this: “Escape now, escape now if you can—because I want you in my insect collection. Escape now, little bug, because it only gets harder from here.”
Though sometimes they will say this aloud: “We have the legal responsibility of your life in our hands.”
And definitely this: “Your life is important to us.”
And this too: “Protecting your life is in our code of ethics.”
But not this: “Yet as doctors we fail miserably at our oath to ‘Do no harm.’”
The blunt reality of their harmfulness will actually be difficult for them to see, because two criteria required for entering the fraternity of biological psychiatry are: 1) a limited capacity for empathy, and 2) profound unawareness of this.
As such, most can comfortably say this: “We are ethical practitioners.”
And many can comfortably say this too: “So are the pharmaceutical companies who supply us with medications.”
Yet no biological psychiatrist will admit this: “We and the drug companies actually engage in a biological relationship. It’s called ‘symbiosis.’ It’s when two organisms or in this case organizational entities engage in a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Nor this: “We also engage in a biological relationship with our patients. It’s called ‘parasitism.’ We benefit at a cost to them. We also engage in a parasitic relationship with society as a whole, because society has to bear a lot of the costs of our errors and denial and self-serving behavior. And we do benefit alright. We get prestige, power, and money. We are the Gods of the mental health system.”
Nor ever this: “Yes, we know these attitudes could be conventionally defined, for diagnostic purposes, as ‘grandiose’ and even ‘psychopathic,’ but we don’t care, because when it comes to diagnosing members of our own species we’re at the top of the food chain and we make the rules and we’re exempt from them. And we think that’s okay. And frankly we could give a biological feces what you think about it. We have power, we’re the bosses, and we have the ear of the important people. You are nothing. You are crazy. You are mentally ill. You are defective. You stepped over the line of normalcy and you entered our turf. Welcome to the jungle. Welcome the world of tooth and claw, where we have evolved canines and you have not. You are a guinea pig. We will put you in a cage and study you. We will keep you from the sun and the earth. We will feed you what and if and when we want. We will watch you when you sleep. We will monitor your speech and take notes on you. We will speak to you from behind a glass. We will decide what of your behavior is acceptable and what is not. We will make you docile, compliant, and numb. We will teach you to make us happy. Your parents failed you. They instilled bad habits in you and now we will break you of them—or simply break you. You exist to serve us and our unconscious feelings and our unresolved traumas and our projected fantasies and our lifetime of emotional dissatisfaction and unmet childhoods needs. We are dying and we want to drink your psychic blood to keep ourselves alive. Yes, we are parasites. No, we will not admit this. Yes, we love your passion. No, we are not passionate. Yes, we are similar to those who harmed you. No, we will not defend you against them. Yes, we are indifferent to your suffering. No, we do not love you. Yes, you will listen to us. No, you will not talk.”
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.