Psychiatry and Crime

Philip Hickey, PhD
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In DSM-III-R, the APA defined a mental disorder as:

“…a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in a person and that is associated with present distress (a painful symptom) or disability (impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.  In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be merely an expectable response to a particular event, e.g., the death of a loved one.  Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the person.  Neither deviant behavior, e.g., political, religious, or sexual, nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of a dysfunction in the person as described above.” (p xxii)

I have made the point many times that this definition can be accurately paraphrased as: any significant problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving.  The definitions of a mental disorder provided in DSM-IV and DSM-5 contain slightly different wording, but are essentially the same as that in DSM-III.

It is important to note that the APA’s definition of a mental disorder/illness is entirely arbitrary, in that there is no objective reality to which it must conform.  A mental disorder is what the APA says it is, and there is no way to argue that a particular problem is not a mental disorder, because there is no reality against which this kind of labeling can be checked.  Mental illnesses, unlike real illnesses, are not discovered in nature.  Rather, they are decided by APA committees and membership votes, and are codified in successive revisions of the DSM.  If a problem is listed in the manual, then it’s a mental disorder.  And the manual is extraordinarily inclusive.  One would be hard put to name a problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving that is not listed in the APA’s catalog.

Crime

Obviously, habitual criminality conforms to the APA’s definition, and criminal behavior has been included in every DSM edition since DSM-I (1952).  In DSM-III-R there are indications that the drafting committee struggled slightly with this issue, and developed the individual vs. society exclusion contained in the above quote, though this has had little or no effect with regards to the inclusion of habitual criminality in the manual.  It is also worth noting that the exclusion clause is too vaguely worded to be of much practical use.

In DSM-5, the following “diagnoses” all embrace criminal activity:

  • conduct disorder
  • antisocial personality disorder
  • kleptomania pyromania
  • intermittent explosive disorder
  • voyeuristic disorder
  • exhibitionistic disorder
  • frotteuristic disorder
  • sexual sadism disorder
  • pedophilic disorder

The crimes entailed in the above “diagnoses” range in severity from relatively minor to extremely serious.  Conduct disorder, for instance, can range from threatening others to homicide.  Here are the DSM-5 criteria for conduct disorder (p 469-470):

“A.  A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated, as manifested by the presence of at least three of the following 15 criteria in the past 12 months from any of the categories below, with at least one criterion present in the past 6 months.

Aggression to People and Animals

  1. Often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others.
  2. Often initiates physical fights.
  3. Has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun).
  4. Has been physically cruel to people.
  5. Has been physically cruel to animals.
  6. Has stolen while confronting a victim (e.g., mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery).
  7. Has forced someone into sexual activity.

Destruction of Property

  1. Has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage.
  2. Has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than by fire setting).

Deceitfulness or Theft

  1. Has broken into someone else’s house, building, or car.
  2. Often lies to obtain goods or favors or to avoid obligations (i.e., ‘cons’ others).
  3. Has stolen items of nontrivial value without confronting a victim (e.g., shoplifting, but without breaking and entering; forgery).

Serious Violations of Rules

  1. Often stays out at night despite parental prohibitions, beginning before age 13 years.
  2. Has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in the parental or parental surrogate home, or once without returning for a lengthy period.
  3. Is often truant from school, beginning before age 13 years.

B.  The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

C.  If the individual is age 18 years or older, criteria are not met for antisocial personality disorder.”

 

Under Diagnostic Features, P 472, it states:

“Physical violence may take the form of rape, assault, or, in rare cases, homicide.”

Note in particular that it requires only 3 items out of 15 to make the “diagnosis.”  Also note the potential range of severity.  A person has the “mental illness” conduct disorder, if he has run away from home at least twice, skipped school “often” before age 13, and has done some shoplifting.  At the other end of the scale, a person who has engaged in armed robbery, rape, and arson has the same “mental illness.”  And it’s important to recognize that the APA is not saying that a person engages in these activities because he has another “mental illness” (e.g. “schizophrenia” or “bipolar disorder”).  Rather, the contention here is that armed robbery, rape, arson, murder and the other criminal activities listed constitute a “mental illness” in and of themselves.

Within psychiatry’s spurious and comprehensive medicalization perspective, all criminal activity is a manifestation of a mental illness.  With the possible exception of politically motivated crimes like espionage, treason, etc., there is no criminal act that cannot be considered a symptom of a mental illness.  Rape, murder, torture, arson, theft, embezzlement, sexual abuse of children, burglary, cruelty to animals, etc., are all “symptoms” of one or more of psychiatry’s spurious illnesses.

Nevertheless, for the past fifty years, while psychiatrists have been busy expanding and promoting their services with regards to other life problems, they have been peculiarly silent with regards to the fact that their taxonomy also includes criminal activity.  They have vigorously promoted the notion that depression, anxiety, shyness, painful memories, childhood temper tantrums, inattention, etc., are all “treatable mental illnesses”, but have not promoted the notion that crimes are also “mental illnesses”, that are cataloged and codified in their manual.

I have always assumed that this uncharacteristic reticence on psychiatry’s part reflected a recognition that promoting the notion that crime is an illness might stimulate some resistance from the general public, and might precipitate a questioning and scrutiny of psychiatry’s more fundamental falsehood, that all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving are illnesses.

But whatever the reason for the reticence, there are indications that it is fading.  I have come across several articles in recent months in which psychiatrists are promoting the notion that particular crimes should be conceptualized as mental illnesses, or symptoms of mental illnesses.  The notion, for instance, that road rage and wife battering should be conceptualized as symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder is being promoted vigorously.

Road Rage, Wife Beating, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Here’s a quote from a press release that was issued on December 18, 2013 by the University of Chicago Medical Center.  The release is titled Markers of inflammation in the blood linked to aggressive behaviors

“Intermittent explosive disorder (IED), a disorder of impulsive aggression (which includes ‘road rage’), can disrupt the lives of those with the disorder, as well as the lives of their family, friends and colleagues. People with IED overreact to stressful situations, often with uncontrollable anger and rage.” [Emphasis added]

Note in particular the spurious leap from the fact that a person didn’t control his anger to the conclusion that he couldn’t control his anger (“uncontrollable rage”).  This is a recurrent theme in psychiatry.  The child who doesn’t pay attention in school, can’t pay attention; the depressed person who doesn’t pursue normal activities, can’t pursue normal activities; etc…  The disempowering implications of these unwarranted conclusions are obvious.  Also note the bland assertion that this so-called illness “includes road rage.”  So road rage, the crime, becomes, by psychiatric edict, an illness.

. . . . . 

Here are the DSM-5 criteria for intermittent explosive disorder (p 466):

      • “A.  Recurrent behavioral outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses as manifested by either of the following: 
        1. Verbal aggression (e.g., temper tantrums, tirades, verbal arguments or fights) or physical aggression toward property, animals, or other individuals, occurring twice weekly, on average, for a period of 3 months. The physical aggression does not result in damage or destruction of property and does not result in physical injury to animals or other individuals.
        1. Three behavioral outbursts involving damage or destruction of property and/or physical assault involving physical injury against animals or other individuals occurring within a 12-month period.
      • B.  The magnitude of aggressiveness expressed during the recurrent outbursts is grossly out of proportion to the provocation or to any precipitating psychosocial stressors.
      • C.  The recurrent aggressive outbursts are not premeditated (i.e., they are impulsive and/or anger-based) and are not committed to achieve some tangible objective (e.g., money, power, intimidation).
      • D.  The recurrent aggressive outbursts cause either marked distress in the individual or impairment in occupational or interpersonal functioning, or are associated with financial or legal consequences.
      • E.  Chronological age is at least 6 years (or equivalent developmental level).
      • F.  The recurrent aggressive outbursts are not better explained by another mental disorder…and are not attributable to another medical condition…or to the physiological effects of a substance…For children ages 6-18 years, aggressive behavior that occurs as part of an adjustment disorder should not be considered for this diagnosis.” [Emphasis added]

There are several noteworthy features to this definition of intermittent explosive disorder.  Firstly, the frequency/duration specifications included in section A, 1 and 2 (twice weekly; for a period of 3 months; within a 12-month period) are entirely arbitrary. Secondly, there is no way that a psychiatrist, or anyone else for that matter, can discern whether an outburst of rage was perpetrated with the purpose of intimidating a victim.  Thirdly, chronological age is at least 6 years!  So a six-year-old child throwing a verbal temper tantrum twice weekly on average for a period of three months has a “psychiatric illness” for which he presumably needs psychiatric treatment.  If the duration is only two months, however, he does not have an illness.  He needs to keep it up for another month, then he’ll have an illness!

. . . . . 

Here’s another quote from the same University of Chicago Medical Center press release:

“IED outbursts are out of proportion to the social stressors triggering them. Such blow-ups may at first be written off by friends as ‘simple bad behavior,’ [Dr. Emil] Coccaro said, ‘but intermittent explosive disorder goes beyond that. It has strong genetic and biomedical underpinnings. This is a serious mental health condition that can and should be treated.'”

. . . . . 

Here’s a quote from an article in Pacific Standard, January 28, 2014: The Psychology and Biology of Road Rage:

“Emil Coccaro, a professor and psychiatrist at the University of Chicago, has studied Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) for many years. People with this disorder repeatedly respond with violent or verbally aggressive outbursts, disproportionate to any given situation. (Not all road-ragers have IED, but road rage can be a symptom of it.)”

. . . . . 

Dr. Coccaro has been developing and promoting this notion since at least 2006.  Here are three quotes from a USA Today article, ‘Road rage’ disease affects as many as 16 million Americans, study says (June 2006):

“To you, that angry, horn-blasting tailgater is suffering from road rage. But doctors have another name for it — intermittent explosive disorder — and a new study suggests it is far more common than they realized, affecting up to 16 million Americans.”

Note the extraordinary phrase:  “suffering from  road rage.”  In reality, it is other road users who suffer from the road ragers’ petulant, and sometimes violent, outbursts.  Note also that this “disorder” is “far more common” than had been previously realized.  What’s not mentioned is that the criteria for this so-called illness have been progressively relaxed since DSM-III (1980), as is the case in many other psychiatric “illnesses.”  I have discussed the progressive easing of the “intermittent explosive disorder” criteria in detail in an earlier post.

“‘People think it’s bad behavior and that you just need an attitude adjustment, but what they don’t know … is that there’s a biology and cognitive science to this,’ said Dr. Emil Coccaro, chairman of psychiatry at the University of Chicago’s medical school.

Road rage, temper outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects and even spousal abuse can sometimes be attributed to the disorder, though not everyone who does those things is afflicted.” [Emphasis added]

The phrase “be attributed to” is logically equivalent to “be caused by.”  So some wife batterers are “afflicted” by an illness which causes them to batter their partners.  The clear implication being that there is nothing they can do about this except, presumably, seek psychiatric treatment.  Psychiatry’s track record in other areas would not inspire great confidence in this field, but at least the “knowledge” that their abusive partners are “afflicted” by an illness should be a great comfort to battered women everywhere.

“Coccaro said the disorder involves inadequate production or functioning of serotonin, a mood-regulating and behavior-inhibiting brain chemical.”

This, of course, is the famous neurochemical imbalance theory.  In his more recent writings, Dr. Coccaro stresses the importance of plasma inflammation markers as correlates of this “illness”, but the serotonin hypothesis is still alive and well.

Mayo Clinic (2015): “There may be differences in the way serotonin, an important chemical messenger in the brain, works in people with intermittent explosive disorder.”

Valley Behavioral Health Systems (2015):  “Research has suggested that intermittent explosive disorder may occur as the result of abnormalities in the areas of the brain that regulate arousal and inhibition. Impulsive aggression may be related to abnormal mechanisms in the part of the brain that inhibits or prohibits muscular activity through the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin, which works to send chemical messages throughout the brain, may be composed differently in people with intermittent explosive disorder.”

Harvard Medical School (2011):  “Several studies suggest that the disorder [intermittent explosive disorder] is associated with abnormal activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin in parts of the brain that play a role in regulating, even inhibiting, aggressive behavior. Impulsive aggression in general is associated with low serotonin activity as well as damage to the prefrontal cortex, a center of judgment and self-control.”

. . . . .

As recently as August 2015 (Intermittent explosive disorder in adults:  Treatment and prognosis), Dr. Coccaro has stressed the putative uncontrollability of the aggressive impulses:

“Patients with intermittent explosive disorder are periodically unable to restrain impulses that result in verbal or physical aggression.” [Emphasis added]

In other words, if a person’s temper tantrums cross arbitrary and vaguely-defined thresholds of severity, frequency, duration, and disproportionality, then they constitute an illness, and the tantrums pass, by psychiatric alchemy, out of the sphere of ordinary voluntary behavior for which we are all considered to be answerable, into the looking-glass sphere of mental illness, over which people have no control, and therefore should, presumably, not be held answerable.

And, incidentally, Dr. Coccaro, Psychiatry Chair at University of Chicago, consults for, and owns equity in Azevan Pharmaceuticals.  Here’s a quote from Azevan’s website:

“Azevan Pharmaceuticals is a clinical stage, small molecule drug development company developing novel therapeutics to treat disorders of stress, mood, and behavior. The Company’s first clinical compounds selectively block the effects of arginine vasopressin, a peptide neurohormone involved in the pathophysiology of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurodegenerative diseases, PTSD, and other affective disorders. Vasopressin 1a receptor antagonists represent a novel mechanism of action for addressing these indications.

A 12 week Phase II Clinical Trial with SRX246 for the treatment of Intermittent Explosive Disorder launched in Q2 2014.”

This trial is scheduled for completion in December 2016 (ClinicalTrials.gov site)

Psychiatric Expansion into the Criminal Justice Sphere

The expansion in recent years of psychiatry’s involvement in the criminal justice sphere should come as no surprise.  Expansion has been an ever-present part of psychiatry’s agenda since at least the early 50’s, and it is clear that these efforts, fuelled by pharma dollars, have been very successful.  In the 1950’s, “mental illness” was considered extremely rare, and very few people ever came within the orbit of a psychiatrist or a mental institution of any kind.  Today, psychiatry assures us that about one fifth to one quarter of the population experiences a mental illness each year, and that the life-time prevalence is about 50%.  And these numbers are widely accepted by government, healthcare agencies, the media, and the general public.  But I doubt that it is widely appreciated that virtually all criminal activity is included in these numbers.

The expansion of psychiatry’s concepts and practices into the criminal justice arena is also entirely consistent with psychiatry’s definition of “mental illness”, as embracing every significant problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving.  According to psychiatry, crime – any crime – is a symptom of a mental illness, with all its implications of powerlessness and non-accountability.

In recent years, psychiatry has come under a good deal of scrutiny and criticism.  Its long-touted chemical imbalance hoax has been exposed, as has the ineffectiveness of its “treatments” and the fraudulent nature of most of its research. But there has been virtually no critical self-appraisal or apology from psychiatry.  They continue to promote their invented illnesses and their destructive treatments with ever-increasing vigor, and, as in the case of crime, to extend their conceptual framework of false powerlessness into new arenas.

Psychiatry has not been entirely successful in their efforts to infiltrate the criminal justice system, and there is still a measure of skepticism among judges and prosecutors on these matters.  Here’s a quote from psychiatry.us:

“Courts are generally skeptical of claims of insanity based on various impulse control disorders such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), Pyromania and Pathological Gambling.”

But psychiatry and its pharmaceutical allies have long known the value of patience.  In the business of conceptual shifts, seeds planted today bear fruit years, if not decades, hence. But psychiatry’s seeds have definitely taken root in the criminal justice field.

State of New York vs. Jason Bohn

Jason Bohn, 35, a New York attorney, was charged last year with the torture/murder of his 27-year-old girlfriend.  The murder and the events leading up to the murder were recorded on the victim’s cell phone, unbeknownst to Mr. Bohn.  On the basis of this recording and an earlier call to the police by the victim, prosecutors were able to provide a timeline demonstrating that the torture/murder lasted at least 60 minutes.  Nevertheless, part of Mr. Bohn’s defense was that he was suffering from “intermittent explosive disorder”, and that this should mitigate his culpability to a lesser charge, e.g., manslaughter.

After the trial, CBS reported Troy Roberts produced a 45-minute account for 48 Hours.  A modified transcript of the program can be found here.  Here are some quotes from this transcript:

“Dr. Alexander Sasha Bardey is a Harvard-educated forensic psychiatrist and a consultant for the TV show ‘Law & Order: SVU’.

‘I spent a total of about 6 or 7 hours with him [Jason Bohn]… over the course of three different sessions,’ Bardey told ’48 Hours’.

Now working for the defense, he spoke with Bohn and others who know him.

‘What conclusion did you reach?’ Roberts asked.

‘I concluded that Jason was suffering from … intermittent explosive disorder,’ Bardey replied. ‘It’s a mental illness … characterized by bouts of loss of control and bouts of anger and bouts of violence.'”

Note the phrase “suffering from.”

. . . . . 

“Prosecutors Patrick O’Connor and Marilyn Filingeri still can’t quite believe it. They know Jason Bohn brutally beat Danielle Thomas to death. But Bohn’s defense is claiming he’s mentally ill — his anger stemming from his mother abandoning him almost three decades ago.

‘It’s ridiculous and it makes a mockery of the judicial system. This is why people … have a problem, with science, psychology, with psychiatry, because they come up with these concepts which are meant to excuse us from taking responsibility for our actions,’ said O’Connor.”

. . . . . 

” ‘At some point in the process of him killing her … her phone was activated,’ said O’Connor.

And a recording of Jason killing Danielle was made.

‘He speaks in a very calm voice at several times throughout the tape saying, ‘Listen, Danielle, you have to listen to me. You don’t have a lot of time,’ ‘ said O’Connor.

It’s extraordinarily graphic, so ’48 Hours’ decided just to share a small portion of it:

Jason Bohn: You have 5 seconds. I’m gonna let you up and then you need to answer quickly or else you die.

‘Danielle on this tape is begging for her life … she’s being strangled repeatedly … and at various points, she is saying that she can’t breathe. She repeatedly claims that she loves him,’ said O’Connor.”

. . . . .

“Defense attorney Todd Greenberg concedes that Danielle Thomas’ pocket-dialed voice mail is chilling.

‘It’s never, never a pleasant, pleasant experience when you have to dig into these type of facts,’ said Greenberg. But he hears a different story in that recording. ‘When I heard that tape, I heard howling.

I heard shrieking from Jason. …it’s almost like somebody else coming out of him.’

At trial, Greenberg hopes to persuade jurors that when Jason Bohn was beating and strangling Danielle, he was overwhelmed by his emotions.

‘Jason has never denied the act of killing Danielle Thomas. It has been the defense’s position that he did so when he was suffering from a mental illness and under extreme emotional disturbance,’ Greenberg said. ‘Jason Bohn is a classic case of intermittent explosive disorder.’ “

. . . . .

” ‘It’s a viable psychiatric illness that people suffer from,’ said Psychiatrist Alexander Sasha Bardey, who is a key defense witness.”

To which Troy Roberts responded:

” ‘You hear him strangling her and then stopping. Asking her questions … telling her she’s gonna die in five seconds. It sounds like someone who is in control to me,’

‘Being out of control doesn’t mean you’re just screaming gibberish and – and — and waving your arms and flailing around,’ he replied. ‘You’re just doing something that you really shouldn’t be doing, that you don’t wanna do that your rational reason tells you not to do, but you can’t help yourself.’ “

Note the extraordinary degree of obfuscation.  Mr. Bohn’s defense was that during the 60 minutes that he was torturing and murdering his girlfriend, he was, because of rage, not in control of his actions.  Troy Roberts makes the point that in the taped conversation, he sounds very much in control.  To which Dr. Bardey replies that being out of control just means that one does something that one shouldn’t do.  The “symptom lists” given in the DSM are inherently vague, and lend themselves to a very wide range of interpretation.

And, incidentally, Dr. Bardey is a very eminent psychiatrist, currently employed as Director of Forensic Psychiatry for Nassau County Department of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency, and Developmental Disabilities.

. . . . . 

Ultimately, the jury rejected Mr. Bohn’s defense and convicted him of torture/murder.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

State of Tennessee vs. Davis Bradley Waldroup, Jr.

In May, 2009, Davis Bradley Waldroup was tried in Benton, Tennessee with the attempted murder of his ex-wife, Penny, and the murder of her female friend Leslie Bradshaw.  NRP did a segment on the trial on July 1, 2010, and there is a transcript on their website.  Here are some quotes from the transcript:

“New discoveries about the brain are raising the question: Can your genes make you kill? Already, neuroscience has been presented as evidence in more than 1,200 cases. It’s being called neuro-law, and it played a role in a murder trial in Tennessee last year. That trial is one of the first where jurors heard evidence from neuroscience to help them decide guilt or innocence.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“When the police arrived at Bradley Waldroup’s trailer home in the mountains of Tennessee, they found a war zone. Assistant District Attorney Drew Robinson says there was blood on the walls, blood on the carpet, blood on the truck outside.”

. . . . .

“Waldroup shot his wife’s friend, Leslie Bradshaw, eight times, and sliced her head open with a sharp object. Prosecutor Cynthia Lecroy-Schemel says when Waldroup was finished, he chased after his wife, Penny, with a machete, chopping off her finger and cutting her over and over.”

 . . . . .

“Prosecutors charged Waldroup with the felony murder of Leslie Bradshaw, which carries the death penalty, and attempted first-degree murder of his wife, Penny. It seemed clear to them that Waldroup’s actions were intentional and premeditated.”

. . . . . 

“Ms. LECROY-SCHEMEL [prosecutor]: One of them was, he told his children to come tell your mama goodbye, because he was going to kill her. And he had the gun, and he had the machete.”

. . . . . 

“Richardson [defense attorney Wylie Richardson] went to forensic psychiatrist William Bernet of Vanderbilt University, and asked him to give Waldroup a psychiatric evaluation. Bernet also took a blood sample and brought it to Vanderbilt’s molecular genetics laboratory.”

Dr. Bernet is a Professor Emeritus at Vanderbilt, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the APA and the AACAP.

. . . . . 

“Bernet cited scientific studies over the past decade that have found that the combination of the genes and child abuse increases one’s chances of being convicted of a violent offense by more than 400 percent. Other studies have not found such a connection, but Bernet thought the jury should know about the gene.”

The gene in question is a variant of the MAO-A gene.  It is sometimes referred to as “the warrior gene.”  There’s a Wikipedia article on the subject here.

. . . . . 

“The genetic testing was only one piece of Waldroup’s defense. His attorneys also argued that he was depressed, suffered from intermittent explosive disorder, and acted in the heat of passion.” [Emphasis added]

. . . . .

“After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Waldroup of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Leslie Bradshaw, and attempted second-degree murder of his wife.”

. . . . .

“Another juror, Debbie Beaty, says the science helped persuade her that Waldroup was not entirely in control of his actions.

Ms. DEBBIE BEATY (Juror): A diagnosis is a diagnosis. You know, it’s there. A bad gene is a bad gene.”

A diagnosis is a diagnosis!  The blandly expressed, but chilling acceptance, of the great psychiatric hoax.

. . . . . 

“Prosecutor Drew Robinson was stunned.

Mr. ROBINSON: I was just flabbergasted. I did not know how to react to it.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Nor did fellow prosecutor Cynthia Lecroy-Schemel. She worries that this sort of defense is the wave of the future.”

. . . . .

“Scientists and legal experts expect to see more cases like this as neuroscience makes inroads into the courtroom – and presents guilt and innocence not in terms of black and white, but in shades of gray.”

But, of course, this isn’t neuroscience entering the courtroom.  This is psychiatric neuroscience – the same hodge-podge of unsubstantiated assertions that has convinced an entire generation that depression is an illness caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.  It bears as much resemblance to genuine neuroscience as astrology does to astronomy.

. . . . . 

Defense Lawyers and Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Defense lawyers are charged with the responsibility of defending their clients with as much vigor and creativity as they can bring to bear.  They are beginning to recognize the value of “intermittent explosive disorder” in this area.

The Gage Law Firm is, according to their own website:

“…a premier criminal defense and estate planning law firm serving metropolitan Atlanta…”

Here’s a quote from their website:

“The Gage Law Firm is skilled in handling criminal cases involving:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Paranoid Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Major Depression and Major Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Manic Depression
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome

In many criminal cases involving mental illness, including felony cases, securing treatment for one’s mental illness can help in avoiding criminal prosecution altogether. In other cases such treatment can offer significant mitigation. The Gage Law Firm can help set up low-cost treatment in the community and often negotiate a more desirable outcome with prosecutors. [Emphasis added]

Those who suffer from mental illness aren’t criminals.”

But in fact, violent defendants “suffering from intermittent explosive disorder” are criminals.  That’s what this “diagnostic label” means.

. . . . .

The Forbess Law Firm in Jacksonville, Florida, has a website called Jacksonville Crime Attorney Blog.  On November 18, 2012, they published a post on intermittent explosive disorder.  In the article they describe a case in which a person, diagnosed with this so-called disorder, shot four of his co-workers, killing two.  The article also sets out the “symptoms for IED.”  Then there’s this:

“Many times, people go through with actions that they would not normally ever think of doing because of altered states of mental acuity. When this happens, things said, acts done, and effects rendered can leave the accused what seems like a very rough position with no way out. However, if one obtains an experienced Jacksonville felony violent crimes defense attorney to fight for one’s case, one can ensure one’s rights will be known and protected and that one will be able to receive the treatment one needs to improve one’s life in the future.

The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today.” [Emphasis added]

Discussion

In the evolutionary timeframe, it is but yesterday since our ancestors were a feral species hunting and foraging in small groups in the plains and forests of Africa.  In that dangerous, adversarial, and competitive context, anger and aggression, nature’s antidotes to fear, were adaptive traits that served our forebears well, and undoubtedly contributed to their survival.

And the species did not shed its wildness en masse when the first ploughshare turned soil, or when the first animal was captured and domesticated, or the first towns built.  The civilization of the human species was not a one-time historical event, but is rather a continuous responsibility vested in each successive generation of parents:  the responsibility to train their children to a level of anger control that is appropriate to the culture and norms of our present-day, highly organized, over-crowded living conditions.

Every child is born with his/her anger apparatus intact and ready to develop.  When we see an adult routinely displaying outbursts of rage, the relevant question is not:  why does he do that?, but rather:  why doesn’t everybody do that?  And the answer to this latter question is:  because they were trained not to.  Until about 30 years ago, parents understood and accepted that this training was an integral part of their responsibility.  Today, thanks to psychiatry, an habitually angry, petulant, bad-tempered child “has an illness”, and parents are being actively urged, and in some cases coerced, to seek psychiatric “treatment” for this “illness.”  In general, psychiatry’s success in this area has been abysmal, and these children routinely grow up to be habitually angry, petulant, bad-tempered, and sometimes viciously violent, adults.

Jason Bohn, whose murder conviction was discussed above, at age 14, had reportedly punched a pregnant 18-year-old woman in the abdomen, causing her to miscarry.  He was never charged with this offense.

“No charges were brought in the first killing [the miscarriage]— Bohn was already under psychiatric care and authorities made certain that the care was continued.” New York Post, February 21, 2014.

The fact is that habitual outbursts of violent rage, such as wife-battering and road rage are not illnesses, and are not amenable to medical treatment.  What we’re dealing with here is simply another example of psychiatry self-servingly expanding its drug-peddling activities regardless of considerations of validity, efficacy, or ethical integrity.

The hoax goes on.

30 COMMENTS

  1. It’s not surprising that psychiatry wants to expand its power and profitability by calling criminal acts illnesses. But I suspect it can do this because it is a common belief that criminals are ill. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has told me an abusive individual, a murderer , a child molestor or even someone with nothing more than a very bad temper is “sick.” And, I believe, this attitude is more prevalent among better educated individuals who are in the higher socio-economic strata.

  2. This is so utterly ridiculous that it defies words, Philip. The “doctors” in this article are charlatans to the 10th degree. I find it hard to imagine they are not aware on some level of how hollow their “research” is and how contemptible and pathetic it appears to most well-informed people.

    When it comes to accepting or challenging the claims of psychiatry in America, most Americans are woefully uneducated or just flat-out stupid. They will accept anything they read from nondoctors. So part of the responsibility for accepting these nonillnesses falls not only on the hoaxers (psychiatrists) who peddle them, but on the mindless sheep who allow themselves to be deceived. As Macchiavelli said,

    “Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions.”

    Furthermore, the lies that psychiatrists promote about diagnosis are so extreme and so blatant that many Americans find it hard to believe that an entire official diagnostic and research system, one promoted by our best universities and institutions, could be nothing more than a self-serving fraud. But it is indeed so.

    I am a former criminal (this was years ago, beyond the statute of limitations and more importantly not provable… these could just be fantasies, for all you all know, although they aren’t). But when I was carrying out my criminal acts, including stealing very significant amounts of money and items of property to survive, I never felt as if I had an illness. Instead my criminal behavior was adaptive, conscious and intentional; it allowed me to survive for a period when I had no regular income but didn’t want to enter the disability system which would have involved diagnosis and drugging. And I could afford psychotherapy when all my parents and the psychiatrist wanted was to drug me. And I have to admit that doing “bad” things was exciting and thrilling, involving the feeling of defying the parents and authority figures that I feared and hated.

    Back then I was a rather cunning, calculating and opportunistic individual – something I know society looks down on as “bad” traits, but I don’t. The only moral code I had was never to directly hurt someone else physically; anything else was fair game. I would spend hours planning specific thefts, both electronic and physical, carefully accounting for the risk / reward ratio of different plans of action. And these actions paid off because I was able to accumulate large amounts of money, pay for therapy, pay for living expenses, not go into debt like most young people, finish college, and most importantly get away with all of it. Today, I don’t steal anymore, mostly because I have a real job and so it doesn’t make sense from a risk/reward standpoint, but also because through therapy I have more of a conscience than I used to.

    To those moralizers out there: Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged. If more people did whatever it took to survive and escape the psychiatric system, including illegal acts that are not directly physically harmful to others, we would be better off. Sometimes the ends do justify the means, as they did in my case. Breaking the law can occasionally be a very good thing. There is a good book about this, “McMafia”, which explores the culture of crime and how the individuals who commit illegal acts are complex, often fascinating individuals who break the law for many reasons, some of them adaptive or even helpful to others.

    It’s also ironic because it was the pressures of the psychiatric system that encouraged me to commit crimes; if I had been offered lower-cost psychotherapy rather than being pressured to take drugs and have only the recourse of expensive therapy, I would not have had such a need to steal.

  3. This is an area of disagreement between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry; the drug companies want to expand their market while psychiatry wants to protect is fledgling credibility. It makes no sense that problems with behavior are “mental illnesses” unless they are bad enough to be criminal whereupon it is debatable depending upon who pays for the diagnosis.

    Diagnosing criminal behavior may be a touchy topic for this website since it seems that most people on this website do not want their emotional distress identified with criminal behavior. Most people with lived experience of emotional distress want to defend themselves from a loss of their human rights that is based on fear of criminal behavior.

    It seems like the “movement” against the medical model should advocate an abolition of the “insanity” defense to reject the validity of the DSM.

    Best wishes, Steve

    • Szaz took that very position, as I recall. He believed people should be held accountable for their crimes, regardless of mental state, and that incarceration should be based on what one did, not on some theoretically perceived risk of harm to self or others based on a spuriously-defined “mental disorder.” I tend to agree with him. Unless it can be proven that the person was in a condition where they genuinely did not understand what they were doing, they should be 100% accountable for their choices. The fact that someone has some speculative “warrior gene” is neither here nor there.

      It is interesting that the IED description says that the person can’t be using this for any kind of specific gain, such as power 0r control over another. This would disqualify 99% of domestic abusers even by their own definition.

      “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” may be the most ridiculous “disorder” in this entire ridiculous volume. That anyone can read that name and still take this book seriously is indication of how gullible the public has really become.

      —- Steve

  4. The difference between “can’t” and “”won’t” has always been a very difficult differentiation for anyone dealing with mental health issues. It certainly has been for me as a therapist.

    I have always felt that part of my role as a therapist is to help the people I see to feel more in control of their lives and their destinies. Yet, as a Psychologist and a scientist it is impossible not to realize that every behavior has an antecedent — that every effect has a cause — that humans really do not have “free will” at the moment that they are making decisions. Behavior is determined by who we are biologically, and how that has interacted with all of the experiences we have received from our environment. Our actions don’t just randomly appear, they come from our history and our motivations, most of which we are not consciously reappraising at the moment of action.

    As Dr. Hickey describes,recently there have been many attempts by defense lawyers to use a psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder, or intermittent explosive disorder, to get their clients to be seen as being victims of the disorder and not responsible for their actions. Philosophically, in many ways this is true. It is true of all of us. We are limited by who were are and what we have experienced. I don’t have the “free will” to wake up tomorrow and play in the NBA, be a lawyer, a hedge-fund manager, or even be a good trash collector. (although, obviously I could run for President of the U.S., as the bar for that is very low).

    But we can’t live in a society that forgives people for the lives they have led. Laws and courts are there to judge people by their actions. There has to be a sense of responsibility, especially for anyone over eighteen years old. The question becomes one of how much “extenuating circumstances” are considered in the sentencing.. Sometimes, treatment is a much better solution than just throwing someone in jail. It could be a better option for the criminal, and for society. Sometimes it’s not. Michael S. Gazzianiga, the psychologist/neurologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara discusses this issue at length in his 2014 book “Whose in Charge Here.”

    Unfortunately, this is a very difficult and complex question to throw at a jury of untrained citizens. “Common sense” gets very confusing. Also, sadly, it plays into many prejudices, especially racial. The question of who is culpable often becomes one of who we are afraid of. In addition, what needs to be considered is how effective treatment would be for the criminal. If we believe that a crime was determined by a person’s genetic make-up, does that mean there is nothing we can do about it. If so, shouldn’t that person be put away forever, just to keep the rest of us safe? If I know someone has an uncontrolled warrior gene, shouldn’t I just shoot him before he shoots me, and then tell the judge I feared for my life?

    Laws are there to answer these questions, not psychiatry.

    As Dr. Hickey writes, people are responsible to learn from their parents, their community and from their own mistakes. Responsible people learn to alter their behavior in order to function better, as individuals and as citizens. We assume that people who “act-out” are making a choice, based on who they have allowed themselves to become. I feel it is the role of a therapist to help create a series of new experiences that help with that learning process, and perhaps have some input into who goes to jail.

    • This is a difficult conundrum. If it were to be widely acknowledged that we often or always lack free will; that criminals do things not because they are innately evil people but because other causes influenced them which they were not responsible for… the entire basis of the prison / corrections industry would collapse and morality would have to be in some way abandoned. People would come to feel powerless and like drones. Yes this is the state in which many murders or thefts are committed; by people who do not choose or want to commit these crimes, but are pushed to do so by a chain of other causes including abuse, neglect, poverty, etc. Many murderers would be normal “good” citizens if only their childhoods had been better. The logical response would actually be to forgive and rehabilitate many of these people, not imprison them for life. But then there is the argument for deterrence, and possibly the reality that the myth of free will and personal responsibility (something I partly believe in, out of need) helps to maintain the degree of societal order that would not exist otherwise and that it would be dangerous to go without.

    • Donald,

      Thanks for a thoughtful and detached analysis. I think the critical issue for the criminal justice system is, or rather should be: how can we intervene with this individual in order to reduce the likelihood of re-offending, while at the same time adequately avenging the victim, and protecting potential future victims? Obviously this is a huge issue, but, and this was the point of my post, psychiatric “diagnosis” and “treatment” is not the answer.

    • It is important to distinguish between unconscious motivations and lack of free will. A person acting out of unconscious or subconscious motivations is still exercising free will – s/he is making a decision, but is simply not being honest with him/herself of the reasons for doing so. This is very different from not being able to become an NBA star due to lack of athletic skills, height, or other abilities. It’s also different from being able to decide to be attracted to a particular person or gender.

      A great example is child sexual abuse. I’ve heard it argued that certain people are sexualized toward younger children and molest for this reason. But I would bet you a whole lot of money that there are many, many people who feel sexual attraction for younger children and choose not to act on it, because they know it is socially inappropriate. Or perhaps a less threatening example: I can readily admit to finding certain high school girls very sexually attractive. But I’d never choose to engage in a sexual relationship with someone of that age, because I know it would be harmful to them (in addition to being illegal). We always have a choice as to whether we give in to a particular impulse. It may be harder for some people to make that choice, but it’s still a decision that is being made. To say that prior circumstances force a person to act a certain way dehumanizes us all and makes efforts to change and to address personal challenges appear pointless and meaningless.

      Humans make choices. It’s what we do. Conscious or not, we’re still making choices, and saying we have a “disorder” preventing us from making those choices takes away both agency and meaning from our lives.

      —- Steve

      • I know what you mean about the young girls, Steve. While I don’t find high school boys terribly attractive, as a single woman, I sometimes am attracted to married men. I never act on this, because I believe adultery is wrong. The only reason I am still alive, is that I believed suicide was murder and therefore wrong. This saved me many times. Psychiatric hospitalization (voluntary) and drugs were no help at all. At the end the opposite became apparent–to me.

  5. Within psychiatry’s spurious and comprehensive medicalization perspective, all criminal activity is a manifestation of a mental illness.

    That about covers it. And all psychiatry is a manifestation of social control rather than “health care.” Anyone still harboring illusions about this should pay closer attention.

    If all crime is really just an expression of “mental illness” the logical extension would be to replace all prisons with “mental hospitals.” Which to be sure some mh “pros” would love. But the more sinister implication is that anyone could be arbitrarily labeled “mentally ill” then considered a criminal threat to be contained by any means necessary. And precious few of the few remaining undiagnosed would appreciate the fine distinction that, although all crime is (allegedly) “mental illness,” all those labeled “mentally ill” are not criminals.

    If we had a “justice” system based primarily on protecting people from crime, and secondarily on changing/rehabilitating the offender rather extracting revenge; the reason for someone’s criminality would be secondary. A dangerous person with no sense of remorse for his crimes should not be wandering freely among us, no matter what psychiatric condition supposedly motivated his/her actions. At the other end of the scale are those who are charged with crimes as a result of defending themselves, or because they acted impulsively or foolishly in a particularly stressful situation, who are less likely to represent a continuing danger. Once there is little reason to believe the behavior will be repeated, there should not be undue continued sanctions based on official sentencing requirements, mandatory minimum sentences, etc.; everyone should be treated as an individual. One’s state of mind certainly may be considered when evaluating extenuating circumstances, but psychiatric terminology and testimony should be excluded from this process as outmoded and unscientific.

    So some wife batterers are “afflicted” by an illness which causes them to batter their partners. The clear implication being that there is nothing they can do about this except, presumably, seek psychiatric treatment.

    And let’s not forget the wives who are then guilt-tripped for not “understanding” that their poor abusive husbands are “suffering” from a serious illness, and maybe even blamed for provoking the behavior by this lack of understanding.

  6. Hi Philip, thanks for the Article (I hope I’m not wandering off, too much). How about ‘Severe Mental Illness’- what is to be understood by this term?

    I think the general rule is that if a doctor in the UK does n’t understand normal English then they shouldn’t be allowed to practice. I think this Rule should be specifically applied to native English Speaking doctors.

    According to a UK GP I saw in October of 2012 anyone with a historical Severe Diagnosis was a Severely Mentally Ill person (forever).

    According to a Lancet International Study Severe Mental Illness is more disabling than paraplegia or blindness. I don’t know anyone with a ‘historical diagnosis’ that could be described like this.

    • Fiachra,

      Thanks for coming in. It’s a great, but understandable, error to imagine that one can make sense of psychiatry. All the fundamental principles of psychiatry are unmitigated nonsense. A problem is severe, if a psychiatrist says so. A problem is lifelong, if a psychiatrist says so. Any “mental illness” can be experienced at a mild, moderate, or severe level. The term “severely mentally ill” is generally reserved for people with a “diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder”, though the concept is currently expanding.

      • It’s a funny one Philip.

        (My GP Practice put my name on a SMI Register without telling me while I was working as a building subcontractor).

        I wonder if I can have my ex girlfriends arrested for having sex with a “Severely Mentally Ill Person” (at some stage they’ve all left me for younger men).

  7. Szasz wrote the only sin ( a choice people make) left is a lack of compassion, everything else (vice and virtue) has been medicalized.

    People believe it is compassionate to help the mentally ill, but who gets to judge who is mentally ill?

    “Involuntary mental hospitalization and the insanity defense should be seen for what they are: symmetrical symbols of psychiatric power. In the one case, the psychiatrist “accuses” the innocent; in the other, he “excuses” the guilty.” Szasz

    Too much compassion is given to the criminal. The purpose of prison is to keep law abiding people safe from dangerous ones. People can only be put in prison if (there is evidence of) a crime has occurred. Past tense.

    Psychiatry is needed for the present time, the present fear of possible crimes performed by those who look/act different than the norm.

    If psychiatry does get the power to judge, personal freedoms will further disappear.

    Carolyn Barnes (JAILED U.S.) May of 2010, Carolyn was arrested and charged with assault for allegedly firing a gun at a census worker. She was declared incompetent to stand trial and sent to the Maximum Security Unit at the North Texas State Hospital for the criminally insane. https://www.madinamerica.com/2012/12/a-psychiatric-assault-on-liberty-the-case-of-carolyn-barnes-2/

    Psychiatry wants control over everyone.

  8. Psychiatry is an insidious disease or virus that just keeps engulfing everything so that just being alive will be an illness! This is just so much bull feces and it’s amazing to me that more people don’t see through it. Eventually, everyone will be “ill” except for the people running the drug companies. I was going to say that psychiatrists will also be exempt but we all know that many of them are totally delusional to the extreme.

  9. Hi Dr Hickey,

    Our Chief Justice in Western Australia has come out and said that domestic violence is a medical issue and should be treated as such.

    Our police force has been given a ‘needle squad’ to deal with this medical matter (and well, a few inconvenient truths might fall through the cracks).

    Public officers have been given carte blanche to fabricate any evidence they require through the corrupt practice of ‘verballing’, and manipulate outcomes which suit current policies.

    Our new psychiatric unit is to be built within the confines of a Supermax. Treatments so good that even hardened criminals are shaking in their boots.

    So, come on down, the Devils in town in sunny Western Australia 🙂

    Regards
    Boans

    • I might just add after thinking about this pattern that before the introduction of our new Mental Health Act with “added protections” (just don’t say they are to protect doctors from any action) that there was a crisis meeting of psychiatrists as a result of the flood away from the public system. The ‘locals’ don’t appear to want to be involved in what may result in blood guilt. Thus the definition of what is a psychiatrist have been lowered and doctors imported to ‘do the deed’.

      As the Kennedy, Wood and Fitzgerald Royal Commissions exposed the use of the same torture techniques used in Guantanamo by police (beatings, cattle prods, simulated drownings, sleep deprivation) back in the 80s, we have in some ways been a little ahead of the US.

      I know I was handed over to police for questioning and not informed I had been drugged without my knowledge with benzos. I can see advantages for law enforcement in this.

      Any researcher looking for a canary in a coalmine, might do well to have a look at what’s going on in this corner of the world.

  10. I’m feeling eerily psychic.

    If all crime is really just an expression of “mental illness” the logical extension would be to replace all prisons with “mental hospitals”…But the more sinister implication is that anyone could be arbitrarily labeled “mentally ill” then considered a criminal threat to be contained by any means necessary. And precious few of the few remaining undiagnosed would appreciate the fine distinction that, although all crime is (allegedly) “mental illness,” all those labeled “mentally ill” are not criminals.

    In his “gun” control speech this morning Obama just announced that physicians will now be not only permitted but expected to inform the FBI if they believe a patient is “mentally ill.” In highly coded terms he noted that Obamacare was crafted to emphasize “mental health” care, and that now he was going to make it “easier” for people who are unhappy with their lives under this system to get the “treatment” they need. I will point out for the politically blind amongst us that this statement screams Murphy! Murphy! Murphy! But now it seems like Obama is not going to even bother waiting to pass Murphy, he’s just going ahead with his pogrom. Our lives and the integrity of our bodies and brains are in great immediate danger, whether or not we have ever even touched a gun or committed a violent act. As in the 30’s in Germany the psychiatrized are again one of the main scapegoats for the fear and desperation people are feeling in this country, and what this system needs more than anything right now are scapegoats for its inability to meet the people’s needs.

    This needs to be recognized as an urgent crisis and the discussion needs to be officially taken up on this site by someone with “writer” credentials. Ye lawyers and others involved with legal advocacy need to mobilize and prepare to defend those who will be victimized by this organized hysteria, and who may be targeted for opposing it. Hopefully many tactical discussions will ensue, not just a couple threads on MIA.

    I hope everyone who watched Obama understands the enormity of all this without needing to read this post (which I have also put in the Forums).

    • I guess I should clarify that the specific thing about the FBI I got from listening to Rush Limbaugh’s post-speech analysis; despite the source I have no reason to believe it’s untrue. I didn’t listen to the entirety of the speech, as I knew what was coming from the stultifying(officially acceptable) emotionalism of the buildup; I kept saying c’mon dude, c’mon, just SAY IT.

      I have noticed that Limbaugh & other “talk radio” types are very cogent and adept at interpreting psychiatric code when it suits their purposes; in this case they are likely to be focusing, as RL did today, on how gun ownership and “anger” can be exploited in the name of “mental health care,” and how the language of health care is manipulated to further political goals. We should try to capitalize on this, and I have encouraged the right-wingers on this site to try to engage the “talk radio” crowd on this.

  11. “It is important to note that the APA’s definition of a mental disorder/illness is entirely arbitrary, in that there is no objective reality to which it must conform.” So when a psychiatrist tries to diagnose me with some fictitious diagnosis I can retort, “So you say love. Whatever.”

    I like this.

    Psychiatry, as I like to say, has two functions:
    1 to be the drug delivery agent for Big Pharma
    2 to stop people thinking why someone is distressed

    Now they want to add
    1 to stop people taking responsibility for their bad behaviour
    2 to stop people thinking about why people behave badly

    Actually they always did this to some degree with people diagnosed as psychopaths whe are often deemed untreatable.

    There is however a prison abolitions movement, especially in the USA. The criminal justice system often does not reform people and is harsh and often racist. I do not see psychiatry as much better.

    There are psycho-social factors around bad behaviour, just as there are around mental distress, and both the criminal justice and psychiatry ignore this. Most violence is committed by men. Most people who end up diagnosed as psychopaths have had appaling childhoods. Diagnosis generally ignores this but if we want to reduce violence in society then we need to look at this and if we want to reform people, usually men, who have acted appalingly we may need to look at this too.

    • The prison movement is our natural ally. Until we collectively understand fighting psychiatry as primarily a law enforcement/justice issue and not one of “health reform” we will be sabotaging our own vital analysis and strategy, as well as millions of brothers & sisters already involved in taking on the Prison Industrial Complex, which could easily be renamed the Prison/Psychiatric Industrial Complex if we took the nature of our struggle more seriously.