Not April Fools: Psychiatric Times Chief Says No Psychiatrists Believe Schizophrenia “Necessarily Refers to a Brain Disease”

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The British Psychological Society’s “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia” report is criticized in two successive articles by Editor in Chief Emeritus Ronald Pies of Psychiatric Times for “trivializing the suffering of psychosis,” caricaturing psychiatric perspectives, and making “straw-man” arguments.

Pies describes the BPS report as “historically ill-informed and medically naive” when it criticizes psychiatrists for making diagnoses based on what people say. Medical doctors often do that, too, argues Pies — a diagnosis of a migraine headache, for example, “is made almost entirely on the basis of ‘what people tell clinicians’.”

Pies also accuses the authors of the BPS report of making “straw-man arguments” when they suggest that some people believe that “the term schizophrenia necessarily refers to a brain disease,” or assume that “there is a straightforward dividing line between ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’.”

“I wish the report’s authors had specified who, exactly, ‘often assumes’ such simplistic nonsense, since psychiatrists surely do not,” comments Pies.

Several MIA Bloggers were involved in writing the BPS report, including Peter Kinderman and Anne Cooke.

The War on Psychiatric Diagnosis (Psychiatric Times, March 16, 2015)

Trivializing the Suffering of Psychosis (Psychiatric Times, December 22, 2014)

Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia (British Psychological Society)

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7 COMMENTS

  1. That’s odd, since all the psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and doctors I dealt with all claimed “bipolar,” “schizophrenia,” “schizo-effective,” “depression caused by self,” and “adjustment disorder” were “lifelong, incurable, genetic” diseases. And they worked really hard on defaming me to my family with these supposed illnesses, and tried really hard to convince me I had all these diseases, despite no family history, no personal history, and no health problems prior to being put on a non-“safe smoking cessation med.” And the health insurance companies also believe these are real illnesses, and they refuse to provide insurance to people so stigmatized.

    Personally, I think it’s highly likely that “Foul ups” with wrongly given neuroleptics, resulting in the central symptoms of anticholinergic intoxication syndrome being misdiagnosed as “schizophrenia,” is likely a very common cause of “schizophrenia.” “neuroleptics … may result in … the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome … Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

  2. Did you notice the asterisk at the end of the Pies piece?

    “*In my view, the Web site of “Mad in America” is particularly abusive toward psychiatrists, though it is far from the worst of the bunch. ”

    I think some MIA readers will take that as a challenge Dr. Pies! What do you mean we’re not the worst?

    I was interested in Pies’ comments about migraines and “painful tic” He says, “the history of medicine is replete with well-established diagnoses which, on their initial description, were of unknown etiology…” but eventually a “bona fide disease” is found. I think that’s a pretty accurate view of many of the professionals I speak with. They genuinely believe a “disease” exists but our science is just not sophisticated enough yet to provide the objective measures to “settle the matter.”

    In the other piece, the ending asterisk talks about Dr. Robert E. Kendell and the notion that “disease” should be seen as a “global characteristic” Wow! Not sure how that would be helpful for anyone to be seen as a “diseased person” versus having a “diseased brain.” I mean they’re both really bad terms but a using disease to refer to the “living human person”?? No bueno my friends.

    • Regarding Pies comments about the MIA site, translation – Any criticism of psychiatry is abusive. I am basing this opinion on when he has written previously opinion columns and was hit with what I felt like were reasonable criticisms and not anything that was inflammatory, he reacted in the same manner.

      I do agree with him though that there are regular medical diagnosis’ that don’t have a well known etiology. High blood pressure is a perfect example as if you get a high reading in a doctor’s office, you’re going to usually be offered BP meds no matter what. But at least usually, the amount of coercion in refusing a BP med would be alot less than if you refused a psych med.

      • High blood pressure is not a disease in itself but a symptom of many separate illnesses and reading of it should prompt more thorough diagnosis and not BP meds. And even if the cause is not revealed, the first line of treatment is observation and lifestyle change. The example you’re describing is another one for the corruption of modern medicine by pharma.

  3. My rather tame and very professional comment was present for a couple of days, but now appears to have been removed from the Psychiatric Times by Dr. Pies or his moderator! I will have to re-submit it. My point was that resistance to labeling was not necessarily a function of how the information was presented, but had more to do with the values and priorities of the person being so labeled. Pretty radical stuff, eh? Not sure why that bugged them so much, but we’ll see what happens when I re-post it.

    —- Steve